Nanaimo students kick off their shoes for anti-bullying awareness

NANAIMO – Woodlands Secondary School taking a different approach to anti-bullying day.

When the school bell rings tomorrow morning students from coast to coast will take a unified stand against bullying by wearing pink shirts.

However, one Nanaimo school has decided to go a step further and will rock their socks off for the day.

On Wednesday (Feb. 25) Woodlands Secondary School will be celebrating Safe Open Caring Day in conjunction with Pink Shirt Day.

Woodlands principal Dave Street said that while Pink Shirt Day reminds students about bullying, SOC Day celebrations focus on inclusion and helps keep the overall anti-bullying message fresh.

“We are dealing with adolescents and you have to keep things fresh and something like this [SOC Day] breathes some life into the idea of anti-bullying and the importance of taking a stand and saying no,” Street said.

As soon as students enter Woodlands on Wednesday, they will be asked to remove their shoes. The day will also be filled with activities including a free lunchtime barbecue, a sock hop and a day-long sock donation drive. A closing-day assembly will feature a TED Talks-style forum, which will be hosted by Street and touch on the idea of attitude.

“We tie in the idea of attitude and the greatest thing you have any control over is your own personal attitude,” Street said.

In addition to the festivities at Woodlands Secondary, the City of Nanaimo along with Mayor Bill McKay and other dignitaries will officially kick off Pink Shirt Day at Maffeo Sutton Park with a number of student representatives.

Pink Shirt Day began nearly a decade ago in Nova Scotia when a couple of students purchased pink shirts in support of a fellow student who was harassed for wearing pink.

The goal for this year’s campaign is to raise more than $300,000 for various anti-bullying programs.

Street, who has spent nearly two decades as an administrator in the Nanaimo school district, said he has seen a shift from administration to students leading anti-bullying awareness campaigns.

“The general populous is quite aware of the fact that bullying is unacceptable in school. Does it still go on? Yes and I think people would be naive to think that it doesn’t. However, you have students that are combatting it … as opposed to it always being the adults that are taking responsibility,” he said.

Street said the challenge for administrators, parents and students is addressing the complex issue of cyberbullying, which has expanded to a huge range of new social media apps.

“I think what has changed, unfortunately, in a lot of cases is bullying by social media,” Street said. “Whether it be the traditional standbys like Facebook and Twitter … now it is everything from Snapchat to any other of the existing sites.”

Despite the challenges, Street said schools are more accepting than ever.

“We have greater overall acceptance,” Street said. “There is greater inclusion and greater awareness of the needs of others.”