They come in peace

They come in peace

It’s Bullying Awareness Week and schools like Macdonald Drive junior high have fun delivering a serious message

Steve Bartlett
The Telegram
November 20, 2007

Students and staff at Macdonald Drive junior high went retro to address a current issue Monday.

They come in peace Everyone in the school formed a peace train and paraded around the building before gathering in the gym to hear a message that urged them to respect one another.

Some, including principal Keith Coombs, dressed as hippies, complete with wigs, headbands, bellbottoms and colourful shirts.

Many carried signs with slogans such as "Got Peace?" or drawings of the peace symbol.

The event was part of Bullying Awareness Week and drew attention to what Coombs considers the biggest problem in schools today.

"If we can change the minds of one or two students over the next week, it’s been worthwhile," he said after the assembly.

Bullying has been a prominent issue across the province since students returned to class in September.

There have been high-profile instances of youth being attacked, and anti-bullying initiatives have made headlines.

Coombs hoped rallies like the one at his school help young people realize they have a responsibility to respect one another.

The veteran educator figures bullying today is more intense and complex than it was years ago. He thinks some youth are desensitized and lack a proper amount of respect and goodwill for their peers.

"That’s not to say everyone," Coombs added.

Grade 9 student Iliyanna Boykov appears to be one student who respects her schoolmates. Dressed in ’70s garb for the peace parade, she said she hasn’t witnessed any bullying.

"I just think we all get along really well," she said.

The key to co-existing peacefully, she continued, is setting aside differences and accepting people for who they are. Despite the fact she hasn’t seen any bullying and thinks students at Macdonald Drive get along, Boykov thinks it’s important people hear the anti-bullying message.

Garrett Barry, also a Grade 9 student, agreed.

"(Bullying) is just something that’s very important for everyone, and it’s big for everyone," he said. "Getting along is a good theme."

Students at Macdonald Drive junior high will take part in other activities this week, including signing an anti-bullying pledge and making a human peace symbol.

The school is one of many in the province and across the country observing Bullying Awareness Week.

Education Minister Joan Burke issued a statement Monday encouraging everyone to recognize it.

It’s the second time she has put an emphasis on bullying this fall, having participated in a rally for OutrageNL, an anti-violence initiative, in early September.

"Bullying is an unfortunate reality," Burke said. "In our schools, every opportunity must be seized to ensure a safe, caring and respectful environment. It is also critical that any incidents of bullying or violence are taken seriously and addressed appropriately."

Christine Fleming, special services teacher at Macdonald Drive junior high, admitted after Monday’s rally that it’s unrealistic to think there will never be bullying at the school.

"It has the potential to be there all the time," she said.

But she is counting on events like the parade and Bullying Awareness Week to help students feel confident that they can speak to someone if there are problems.

Joan McCue, the school’s guidance counsellor, said not knowing who is being bullied is among the biggest challenges educators face.

If someone is a victim of bullying, she suggests they talk to somebody they trust, such as a parent, teacher or guidance counsellor.

"That’s one of the things we preach," she said. "We need to know, if we are going to help you."

The theme of Bullying Awareness Week this year is "Stand Up! (to bullying)."

Read the article on the Telegram website

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