Anti-bullying clothes, groups a start
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | January 11 2018|
I dropped by Caitlyn Dunlop’s photo studio on Minden’s main drag late last week. Terry Mathews-Carl had invited us. She’s behind an anti-bullying clothing line that first made an appearance on Facebook before Christmas.
Even though it was the school break, the small studio was packed Jan. 5 with kids, students from Haliburton Highlands Secondary School but also some from elementary schools in the county.
Under Mathews-Carl’s directions, they donned white and black T-shirts and tank tops with slogans such as ‘be brave be fierce,’ ‘be brave be kind,’ and ‘kindness matters’ as Dunlop climbed a ladder to snap some pics for the campaign’s Facebook page and Instagram account. A website’s also in the works.
The project’s near and dear to Mathews Carl’s heart as she’s good friends with Dulce Acero, who lost her son Phoenix suddenly last May. Some claim he was bullied prior to his death. Mathews-Carl has four kids between the ages of 12 and 16 at home so the topic of bullying and kids’ mental health has been a hot one at their home.
It was nice to spend a bit of time with two of her kids last week as well, both of whom are in Grade 7. As we’ve reported on a ‘community in crisis’ in Haliburton, we’ve largely focused on what has happened at the high school. However, what is happening at our county’s elementary schools is equally important.
While reporting on this story, we’ve heard from a mother of a Grade 7 student at Archie Stouffer Elementary School in Minden. She told us that her daughter has been bullied in the past. She emailed us some hand-written notes, but said “honestly, I could fill a page with the things that have been said to my daughter.” Needless to say, those ‘things’ weren’t nice. She requested anonymity, like so many people who contact us on this ongoing story.
But, she said it wasn’t all bad, that there had been improvements at the school. Students there are being held accountable for their actions, she told us. There are safe spaces and alternate work locations. There’s more activities of inclusion and open dialogue.
We also got a tip about an incident at J. Douglas Hodgson Elementary School in Haliburton last month, claiming a couple of kids from the high school and four to six from the elementary school were involved in a physical altercation with another student. Since then, local OPP have confirmed that an incident took place after school Dec. 8. A 14-year-old boy has been charged with assault. We’re not going to get much more information on this since it involves a young offender and no one at the school board is talking.
So, back to the kids at the photo studio. Annie Merrifield thinks it’s important kids get the anti-bullying message in elementary school, long before hitting the corridors at Hal High. Her sister, Ella Carl, says the message is clear: be kind to people and treat everybody the same, even if they’re different from you. They’re 14. They get it. It’s time the rest of our youth do too.
We applaud the development of the clothing line, for which proceeds will go to anti-bullying efforts, as well as the recent emergence of a local anti-bullying group on Facebook.
Lisa Gervais is the editor for The Highlander.