Let’s Stop Bullying

From my Healthy Living column in Moncton’s Times & Transcript.

An anti-bullying t-shirt campaign that started at Fredericton High School last year has spread to schools across the province this year.

Alisha Virmani, a grade eleven student at Fredericton High School, is the creator of the 2011 t-shirt design that has been sported by students around New Brunswick, thanks to the support and encouragement of BullyingCanada.ca and the Red Cross’s Beyond the Hurt anti-bullying initiative. The t-shirt makes a bold statement in black and white, with the words ”Labels are for soup cans.” on the back of the shirt and ”If you can see it, you can stop it. Stop the bullying.” on the front of it.

Like most high school students, Fredericton High School students bully and get bullied for a variety of reasons, cultural background, race, sexuality, and not fitting into cliches being popular ones. Alisha believes that students’ parents’ attitudes toward tolerating those who are different and the way that more emotional bullying is portrayed in the media are important influencing factors that help determine whether a young person will become a bully. ”Popular shows like Jersey Shore and Gossip Girl often feature characters gossiping and engaging in other pro-bullying behaviors.”

Alisha herself has had problems with bullies in the past, although with the poise, confidence, and professionalism she exudes, Alisha definitely doesn’t qualify as the stereotypical bullying victim. ”During middle school, I was bullied about my racial background at school through name-calling and even experienced cyberbullying when one girl put a website up online to expand on the bullying at school. Even with supportive friends and family, bullying can happen. Many times, it’s not something you can just say ‘no’ to; it’s forced on you and there isn’t always a clearly smart way to deal with the situation.”

”I think it’s very difficult to stop bullying completely, even impossible. Sadly, bullying is always there. We can and should develop programs that aim to prevent bullying and to implement consequences for bully behavior. However, I think we need to focus on raising awareness, not just for bullies, but for victims of bullying so that they can realize that they are not alone and that they have the ability to cope with bullying by assembling themselves.” The t-shirt campaign, says Alisha, has brought benefits to Fredericton High School in the form of an enhanced sense of community, lower tolerance for bullying among teachers and students, and more awareness among bullying victims that bullying is a problem for many.

Originally published in the Times & Transcript on March 19th, 2011.

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