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Bully Free Week and Pink Shirt Day at Mercury Bay Area School

Press Release from MBAS

Monday 15 to Friday 19 May was national Bully Free NZ Week acknowledged by schools throughout New Zealand, and this culminated in the global awareness movement of Pink Shirt Day being celebrated on Friday 19 May. Mercury Bay Area School got right behind this with their student leaders who are passionate about diversity and inclusiveness, driving all sorts of activities and promoting the important messages that underpin the culture of acceptance and positive relationships MBAS strive for. Students spread messages of inclusivity and acceptance through ‘chalk-bombing’ around the school, proactive recognition of students displaying kindness to each other, pink-themed snow cones, a non-uniform pink themed day, and more - all of which were further supported through these same themes woven into curriculum content across the kura. Pink Shirt day itself was also marked by the placement of a diversity mural created by previous students from our ‘E-Team’ with their handprints, and message of encouragement to others. This mural, placed on the student support services centre ‘Rangimarie’, and more in the pipeline, were made possible through a generous donation received from the Whitianga Classic Car Club. MBAS proudly fl ew the rainbow fl ag all week as a further visual sign of support for this message. Its origins date all the way back to the peace movement of 1961, and it was traditionally emblazoned with the Italian word PACE, meaning "peace". Meanings of its colours include red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, pink for sexuality, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony, and violet for spirit.” Pink Shirt Day fi rst originated in 2007 in Canada where a new Year 10 student was being bullied and harassed for wearing pink. Two students took a stand against this homophobic-based targeting, and got other students to unite with them in support of the victim by buying dozens of pink shirts and distributing them to other students. This movement, with its visual support and solidarity, helps give the key message that it is ok to be different. It is now celebrated in schools, workplaces and communities across the world. The MBAS well-being team reflect, “it is important to bring this awareness into the open through focussed curriculum and student led activities. Not only does it support open conversations happening, but it also gives our many diverse groups a voice, and a place to tand in encouraging inclusiveness within our school culture at MBAS. It is something the leadership and governance of our school are right behind as well.”

Simply put, diversity is an array of people or things that are not all the same. This can include age, ability, culture, appearance, religion, race, gender, sexuality…to name just a few. Research shows an undeniable link between themes of diversity, marginalisation and bullying; and while bullying can happen to any student, it is known that some are more likely than others to be targeted this way. Groups that are particularly vulnerable include young people with disabilities or special educational needs, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTQI or ‘rainbow’ youth), and students of a culture, race or religion that differs from the main culture, race or religion at the school. Sadly much of the bullying of these groups is linked to ideas, role modelling, and prejudices that students learn from their family group and their wider social networks about the value of difference in the community. Young people absorb and copy the norms, values and prejudices of their school and their wider community; and these are very powerful influences.

Right: Some MBAS senior students supporting Pink Shirt Day, proudly showing off the new diversity mural made possible with donation received from the Whitianga Classic Car Club


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