Art Smith students wear pink to boost buddies and bust bullying

Pink Day

Be a buddy, not a bully: Art Smith staff and students wore pink last Friday to promote a bully-free school.
Photo: Jeff Gaye

Jeff Gaye

The world needs more buddies and fewer bullies.

Students and staff at Art Smith Aviation Academy did their part to deliver that message last Friday with their annual Bully-Free day in support of a bully-free school. “We’ve had a lot of kids in pink today,” said Stephanie Rychlo, the school’s student advocacy counselor. “It’s good to see.”

Young people often experience name-calling, exclusion and even physical intimidation. “They’ve all experienced it,” Rychlo said. She says it’s important for kids to learn empathy.

“I like them to think about how it feels when you experience that exclusion or that name-calling or that bullying, and help them to understand we don’t ever want anyone to feel that way,” she said.

Reinforcing empathy goes beyond wearing pink one day in September, Rychlo says. The school has introduced two “Buddy Benches,” where students who have no one to play with can take a seat. Other students will then know to invite them to play.

The school has other initiatives to minimize bullying throughout the year. Rychlo visits the classes and helps to teach conflict resolution strategies, enabling students to solve problems amongst themselves in a respectful way. And in past years the Grade 8 students have done “character education,” where they learn about a specific virtue each month and then provide leadership to the younger grades.

The goal is to build a school atmosphere that is healthy for students and conducive to learning. “If we have kids that feel like they’re part of a group and who have friends, we know that increases self-esteem.

We know that improves mental health. And if they’re functioning and they’re happy, if they’re in a good place, then of course they’re going to be able to focus on schoolwork,” Rychlo said.

“It can create a more holistic approach to health and well-being.”