B.C. celebrates another Pink Shirt Day this week, which we fully support and wear appropriate attire as does all of our board of directors and volunteers.
Yet this year’s celebration will be filled with frustration, anger and a feeling of desperation. All of which has been brought on by our Premier Christy Clark and her Minister of Education Don McRae. They both had a golden opportunity to have a real impact on the bullying situation in our B.C. schools after that horrible day, Oct. 10, 2012 when Amanda Todd took her life because of this worldwide pandemic named bullying.
Somehow, Clark and McRae have snatched indifference from the jaws of opportunity. It started with them holding their post-Amanda bullying conference at SFU and not inviting the five Canadian renowned experts in this field who are part of the SFU staff. Followed by not inviting Amanda’s mother. Or any Canadian experts from ground zero. People who walk the hallways, talk to the kids, deal with their parents and their fears.
They could have included deal.org, Covenant House, Street smart Kidz, bullying.ca, all of whom would have shown up free of charge. Instead, they brought in an author from Littleton, Colo., who has never been inside a Canadian school to be the keynote speaker.
End result? A new 1-800 number to go with the seven national numbers already existing, which is receiving about 1,000 calls per month.
Street Smart Kidz receives over 3,000 calls per month and over 4,000 e-mails. I can name eight child advocate groups that receive twice what we do. Over $100,000 spent on what?
Now, for what infuriates me the most!
In Education Minister McRae’s riding, School District 71, is a secondary school that hasn’t received the message No Bullying Allowed.
We have received over 500 e-mails and calls from very concerned parents about this situation since Amanda’s death. McRae has done nothing about it, but has been aware of it since he taught in School District 71 for 14 years.
This school has four main staircases. All are a different colour. Grade 9s have yellow. Grade 10s have red. Grade 11s have green and 12s have blue. If you are from the wrong grade on a staircase, you can expect to be shouted off it. If you don’t listen, you can expect to be spit on, pennies thrown at your head, shoved down the stairs or worse. Punches have been thrown.
As part of our province’s program of “easy transition” from elementary to secondary school for Grade 7s, administrators, teachers and secondary school Grade 12s visit elementary schools to explain the transition to them to elevate students’ fears.
Administrators, teachers and students tell every Grade 7 student, “All will be great” and “wonderful”— “Just don’t screw up on the stairs!”
Of course, hearing this sage advice from a future teacher or principal sends shock waves through a student already scared about leaving their comfort zone of elementary school.
Our goal is to motivate McRae to start walking some hallways, get in touch with parents and students and start cleaning up this mess. Perhaps McRae can convince Clark to move the provincial anti-bullying day to October or November like the rest of Canada. As we all know, 78.9 per cent of all younger-than-16 suicides happen before Christmas break.
Get the message out before the student population has decided who’s cool, who’s not — geek, nerd, cool, jock, goth, loser, smart or another label. This can only happen in the first few weeks of school, before decisions are made on who’s weak and who’s strong.
This province deserves better than this.
Editor’s note: Steven Baird is the managing director of Street Smart Kidz Canada.