“I don’t think there’s anyone who ever said, as a victim, a bully or a bystander, that they never experienced bullying,” said Nicole Gallant, a Grade 11 student at Three Oaks Senior High.
Gallant is on the Climate Crew at the school, a committee composed of students in all three grades whose goal is to raise awareness of bullying and to find solutions to end it.
Tomorrow is national Anti-Bullying Day, and Gallant along with the other members and principal Nicole Haire have been planning the assembly where they will receive the Tami Martell Award for their school climate improvement work from last year.
Also, they will show the documentary “Bully” and everyone is asked to wear pink to show their support.
Gallant became involved with the program last year and she was the only Grade 10 student to be part of it.
“I was really nervous, but seeing some of the most popular kids at school reveal stuff about themselves that you would never have thought, really made me aware that it happens and people who are really strong on the outside, all have problems at some level.”
She thinks the assembly will have a strong impact on the school and the documentary will play an important role in that.
“It’s going to pull at your heartstrings. I think that’s what we need because I think we tend to sugarcoat bullying when it happens, but no one gets right down to it and in the movie there are parents who lost children to suicide because of it. We don’t want to wait for someone on P.E.I. to go to that extreme before we start addressing the issue.”
Haire and three other students gave a presentation to the younger grades at Belfast Consolidated and learned even they were subject to bullying.
“They know they need to learn from a young age because some of them have been bullied and made fun of, so that was really eye-opening.”
Gallant said she hasn’t been bullied much in her life, but she has witnessed it happening.
“In junior high I never wanted to step in or say anything because I was afraid of what other people would think of me or do to me.”
But now she realizes how important it is to get involved and tell people it’s not right and to be there for those who are being bullied.
“There’s no shame in stepping up and telling someone it’s wrong. You’re not going to lose friends over it and if you do, they weren’t really your friends in the first place,” said Gallant.
You can’t be expected to be friends with everyone, but it’s not about that, it’s about respect for each other. Let people be who they are, she said.
“When we eliminate bullying, everything else in the school will go up. There are kids who don’t come to school because they got in an argument with someone the night before and they want to wait until it passes. Some don’t try out for sports because they’re afraid of what the athletes will think of them.”
With this program, grades will improve and students won’t be afraid anymore to succeed, she said.
“Fear is what bullying is. I think if someone is afraid to be who they are, especially when they’re a teenager and are unsure of where they’re going and who they want to be, if someone is trying to stop you, then you’re not going to push through, you’re more likely to keep to yourself when you’re being intimidated by others.”
Gallant said she’s excited for the change in the school to keep improving.
“I’m especially excited for the Grade 10s to see and understand how moving it really is.”
Jaime MacLean in Grade 12 is also involved and is the community works council president of the Climate Crew.
MacLean thinks the school will show a lot of support.
“Our school is pretty good because of the work last year and this will raise more awareness that bullying isn’t right.”
There has been some incidents that didn’t sit right with her and she knows it’s important for her school and others to be aware of it.
“I don’t like to see anyone hurting or struggling.”
MacLean did a paper last semester on bullying and said social media and texting can make it even more difficult for the victims.
“It doesn’t end when school is over.” Now they’re in constant contact with you and exposed to the ridicule. It can follow you home.”
Sometimes students don’t know how hard other people’s lives can be, she said.
“If we can make any change on making their school easier, it’s going to make a huge difference in their life.”
Haire said it all begins with talking about the golden rule and it doesn’t even have to be about bullying.
“If everyone looked after themselves and treated others the way they want to be treated, there would be no issues.”
Putting an end to bullying is a passion of hers because of how much impact it can have.
“You question yourself and it chips away at your self-esteem,” said Haire.
It’s not about persecuting the bullies, it’s finding out what kind of pain they have that makes them want to makes others feel the same way, she said.
“We can help you because you’re not allowed to make another person feel miserable.”
She said it’s her job to make everyone in the building feel comfortable and if someone is walking in feeling small, they can’t learn because they don’t feel safe and that is unacceptable, but the Climate Crew can make the difference they wish to see.
“There’s a lot of people who stand around uncomfortable and don’t like what’s happening and don’t speak up because bullies get power because there’s fear. So the message is going to be there’s probably less bullies than there is positive power that we have to make a difference. I think it’s going to be huge.”