Set to take a stand against bullying during Pink Shirt Day on February 22, Grand Erie is hard at work year-round with programs and initiatives to foster safe, inclusive environment.
“Bullying is a relationship problem, and so it has a relationship solution,” says Christine Bibby, social worker with Safe Schools, a Grand Erie program dedicated to building inclusive and accepting school environments. “The solutions come from the responsibility we all have to work together in creating healthy and safe school communities.”
Success for every students starts with ensuring our classrooms, school buses, cafeterias, playing fields – all of the settings which make up the extended school environment – are positive places to learn and grow. Ensuring such means building networks of support and dialogue, and bringing together the many stakeholders involved in finding solutions to bullying, intimidation, violence, and other misuses of power.
“A school is a community within a community,” says Bibby. “Parents, teachers, administrators, community partners, and students all have to be part of the conversation.”
Safe Schools’ initiatives facilitate these exchanges, promoting healthy relationships and healthy uses of power. Building on best practices, the latest research, and utilizing an array of resources and expertise, Safe Schools works to overcome misuses of power through multi-faceted approaches.
In the area of prevention, it sponsors the “Taylor the Turtle” program in Grand Erie primary classrooms. Taylor is a cartoon turtle who, along with his friends, teaches assertiveness, the right to express one’s feelings, and the right to a safe environment through a series of stories for students in Kindergarten to Grade 3.
Safe Schools promotes restorative practices to deal with conflicts, and provides students with opportunities to resolve relationship problems through a respectful, reflective process. By asking a series of questions, students are encouraged to develop empathy, increasing awareness of the impact of their actions on others.
“Sometimes challenging students are the hardest to include, but we’re changing the lens through which we view them,” notes Bibby. “This work recognizes their role in being part of the solution, and builds our understanding of student behaviour to mitigate risks and foster inclusion.”
Thus, restorative practices work extends to Grand Erie administrators through a series of workshops led by Safe Schools, and empowers them to use these approaches daily in their work with students.
Safe Schools also works with other organizations such as Harmony Movement
, which encourages critical thinking, courageous conversations and strategy building to address and take action against stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, racism and other forms of oppression.
Working with Egale Canada Human Rights Trust
, Safe Schools provides training to intermediate teachers towards the equitable inclusion of LGBTQ students and staff, providing best-available evidence, information, and tools to create environments free from hatred and bias.
Because bullying today doesn’t always happen in person, Safe Schools works to empower youth to speak to their peers about the issue of cyber bullying.
On February 22, Grand Erie participates in Pink Shirt Day – a day where students and staff take a stand not only against bullying, but also against racism, sexism, ableism, and homophobia. Part of the wisdom Pink Shirt Day imparts is the understanding that one day won’t solve all of these problems. Together, we can take a stand for positivity each and every day.