Toronto students spread anti-bullying message amid COVID-19 pandemic

Three grade seven students in Toronto have created a powerful anti-bullying video to spread awareness to their school community.

“We really want to show that even though you don’t experience bullying yourself, people you know might be experiencing it,” student June Stonehouse said. 

The project started off as a mural the students created for a media assignment in their English class at Bayview Middle School. The mural includes hurtful words and phrases such as “You don’t belong here” and “Ugly,” and were countered with positive comments such as “Amazing” and “Beautiful.” 

“Kids in our age group get bullied a lot and they don’t say anything because they’re afraid of being bullied again,” Zeenia Khan said.

It took two weeks in March to finish the mural and the students recorded a time-lapse video of the creation that they then decided to turn into a powerful awareness video highlighting different forms of bullying.

“We’ve been talking a lot about anti-racism and it is a form of bullying so they had to come up with a message to target students of their own age and come up with a group of things we can do to make our school a better environment,” said their teacher Sue Pylyp. 

Even though the pandemic has forced many students to the virtual classrooms and has currently halted in person learning in Toronto and Peel, the problems surrounding bullying haven’t stopped. 

“I think because of COVID cyber bullying is more common it’s easier for people to be mean to others because you don’t have to be face to face,” said Sophia Im. “Bullying can change a person.”

Putting an end to cyber bullying will be the focus of International Day of Pink of Wednesday. The annual event that is a call to action to stand-up against bullying will once again be held virtually.

“Because of the pandemic and now the only connection to the outside world is through their mobile devices. And that can be really scary place because it's unmonitored by parents and educators,” Day of Pink Ambassador Shelly Skinner said. “What we really have to do is to encourage students and these youth is to challenge social norms and to speak out when they are online against anybody who challenges the idea of heteronormative behaviour is the only thing that is worthy”.

The students message “one small comment can make a big difference,” which is captured in the center of the mural.

“You can just something as simple as like you’re really nice or you could something like you’re really rude and that could really change a way a person thinks about themselves,” June said.

They will be sharing their message and four minute video at virtual school assembly later this month.

“Even if it’s a positive comment or a negative comment it could change their lives and they’re going to want to change something so they could be liked or feel more wanted,” Sophia said. “I think they should think before they say or do something – if they are being bullied to know that they didn’t do anything wrong and to tell someone so it can get resolved.”