Wednesday, November 26, 2008

PRSS Students to take stand against bullying

Last week saw teachers and school officials across the country seek to stop a campaign of bullying that had spread through the nation, after a Facebook posting that was based on a recent re-run of a South Park television show episode urged teens to kick red headed students.

The "Kick a Ginger" campaign, was not nipped as quickly as most would hope and more than a few students suffered the cruelty of mob mentality, resulting in educators seeking ways to address the issue with their students in a constructive manner.

It's that sense of bullying that is being addressed on Thursday at Prince Rupert Secondary School, as students will show that they are taking a stand against the problem, by wearing red to school.

The students and staff are also urging Prince Rupert residents to do likewise in as a way of showing support and expressing concern over the lack of compassion that can be generated as quickly as a click on a computer can post a hateful message.

The Daily News offered up a couple of offerings on the issue, with a story from page one and an editorial page offering from Monica Lamb-Yorski. There has also been a forum page created on hackingthemainframe for those that wish to discuss the issue on the local bulletin board.

Students hit back at prejudice
City youths highlight bullying and vow to stand up against it
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Pages one and five

A group of teens at Prince Rupert Senior Secondary believe that having red hair, being light-skinned or having freckles is not a problem at all.

On Thursday, four teens will become leaders and gladly clad themselves in red to show support not just for red-headed people but all people who have at one point or another felt discriminated against.

Stevie Shaw, Austyn Vetissimo, Kate McWilliams and Jaidan Ward are their names and they want all of Prince Rupert, not just PRSS students, to take part.

"I have red hair and my family all has red hair and it's just hit home base with me and it's not necessary," said Ward, who is very proud of his hair and is hoping others are too.

An episode of South Park portrayed character Eric Cartman as a zealous, hateful child who enjoys spreading the message of the 'evilness' of gingers, a derogatory term used to describe those with red hair.

After the show a resulting Facebook group triggered "Kick-a-Ginger day", and a swarm of attacks against red-headed children across Canada was ushered in. But this small group of teenagers united to say that the world is emphasizing far too much on the negative aspects of culture, and that the recent spate of "kick-a-ginger" is not only cruel, but absolutely underselling the capacity for adolescent morality.

"I think it kind-of teaches kids that it is okay to be really a harsh, cruel person towards people of different ethnicities or whoever they may be, judged by how they look like or what they may do," said Shaw, a short-haired brunette teen male and an ardent member of the group.

And Ward had no problem sharing his opinion about what he thought of Kick-a-Ginger and that South Park episode.

"I think it is ridiculous, inappropriate and unnecessary," said Ward. "But it shows the kind of power TV has on kids."

Their teacher, Tulani Ackerman, said that Thursday would not be about South Park or facebook but that it would be about the amount of responsibility these four teens are taking on.

And the day is to let Prince Rupert know that teens can be a powerful social force for good.
The group also believes that the whole Kick-a-Ginger movement is more symptomatic of a bigger societal problem teens face everyday, where if it isn't because you are a red head, it's because you are overweight, or tall, or even religious that you are picked on.

Regardless of the reason for hate, there are always some there to hype it.

Shaw said that the reason the theme took such hold among Canadian youth was because of the power of show, where kids can be entertained in to hateful thought.

"People watch the show and laugh about it, not really thinking about what the (writers) are really telling you and then it picks up, 'Kick-a-Ginger' becomes a (normal) phrase," added McWilliams.

PRSS teacher Suzanne Relick agreed, saying that as a parent she often worries about what kind of control parents have over their child's social skills.

"It's almost as if television is bringing up kids and parents are losing control. And you take something like this and here is an episode on TV and (a group on) Facebook - two forms of media that can just go widespread like wildfire as a parent it is kind of frightening," said Relick.

That's why Nov. 27 will be a very important day for all of Prince Rupert, she said. The kids asked that not only other kids in their school dress in red to show support, but that adults all over the City of Rainbows do likewise.

It's a challenge they think is just as worthwhile as casual dress day, if not more so because it would show that these teens taking responsibility is a worthwhile endeavor.
Senseless violence hurts everyone of us
Between the Lines column
Monica Lamb-Yorski
The Daily News
Wednesday, November 25, 2008
Page four
Last night I received an email from a friend alerting me to PRSS teacher Tulani Ackerman's request that people wear red hats, bandannas or dye their hair red on Thursday.

The move comes as a protest to 'Kick a Ginger Day' that took place last week across North America when an episode of South Park, wanting to show how ridiculous racism can be, suggested people kick persons with red hair.

Tulani's brother, a high school student in the Kootenays, was kicked in the groin by several fellow students and in the end, ran home in fear.

After I read the email I cried and then spent the night tossing and turning thinking about bullying and violence.

There's a scene in Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye where the main character gets beaten up by her friends and is left in the forest.

When she goes home to tell her mother afterwards, her mom doesn't really believe her.
I remember thinking how important it is to let your kids tattle tale sometimes.

You help them sift through incidents to determine what are legitimate complaints.
I ask questions to make sure they didn't aggravate someone or cause a retaliation.

I also tell them over and over again that bullies are usually people that aren't very happy with themselves.

I've never been the type of parent to have blinders on about my own children. I attempt to call them on their meanness to each other and their peers.

Tulani's brother's story made me really sad and reminded me that my own redheaded brother was often beat up by groups of boys.

The fights were never one-on-one.

Many things we didn't hear about until years after they occurred.

When I can't get back to sleep some nights I try recalling the names of the people in my high school graduating class - there were over 200 of us.

Last night, however, I started counting the redheads I know and have met.

Tulani's a gorgeous redhead with long curls. I first met her at the Tom Rooney playhouse at a concert.

I can't wait to hear from my own kids - one who has auburn hair, the other blonde - how the protest day unfurls at PRSS.

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