Nearly 400 students at West Canada Valley Elementary School gathered on the school’s playground after school Wednesday to show their unity.
Dressed in varying shades of orange — the color designated to show unity against bullying — the kindergarten through sixth-grade students posed as their photo was taken around a banner that read “WCV Unity.” Rita Juteau, the school’s psychologist and Dignity Act coordinator, said the students signed the banner during lunch as a pledge against bullying.
“This kicks off our anti-bullying campaign,” she said.
Juteau said the school incorporated anti-bullying behavior into their programs in the past. She said, for example, students last year were able to identify their superhero, and if they were observed showing the traits of that superhero — such as loyalty and honesty — they would be rewarded with a superhero bracelet. This is something the school plans on continuing with this year. Juteau also said the school is planning for special presentations to the students to learn more about bullying.
“It isn’t a huge issue here. We start with kids on the primary level and talk about good character traits,” she said.
Juteau said, for example, kindergarteners to second-graders will talk about character education during their morning program, which can help teach students about how to be respectful of others and how to be caring. She said, also, pre-kindergarten classes will have a book read to them about a particular trait.
October 10 was designated as Unity Day, according to the National Bullying Intervention Center. Schools throughout the area participated by wearing orange to school on Wednesday, or through other events. It was West Canada’s first time gathering the students together for a Unity Day photo.
“It brings the community and group together,” said D.J. Shepardson, the elementary school’s principal, as the students were lining up at the playground. “It brings awareness to this type of issue so others can prevent bullying. This is how we expect students to treat each other.”
New York State’s Dignity for All Students Act, which took effect earlier this year, “seeks to provide the state’s public elementary and secondary school students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, a school bus and/or at a school function,” according to the state Education Department’s website.