A sea of pink was spotted at Monte Bella Elementary School on Wednesday morning. But it wasn’t a flock of pink flamingos or a giant Pepto-Bismol spill.
It was the school population wearing pink shirts and holding up pink signs while taking part in a huge class portrait that will be posted along the walls of the campus.
Samantha Santos and Fallon McAnally, both sixth graders, were part of the 770 students and staff who lined up on the grass field to spell the word “respeto,” which means respect in Spanish. The photos and some video was captured by a flying drone that was operated by Daniel Garcia of Salinas.
Santos said she liked the idea because the whole school was able to send the message that the school is united to stand up against bullying.
“I like it. If we can spread the word around to be an upstander and not a bystander,” Santos said.
She also thinks the message is important because kids should feel safe coming to school and shouldn’t have to worry about being bullied.
McAnally said she’s been bullied since kindergarten and believes children shouldn’t be hesitant to come to school because of that fear. So, she said it was nice to have the students spell out the word to show the entire school is about making sure there’s no bullying allowed on campus.
“It makes me feel safe because all the teachers, if we have a problem, we can just go to them and tell them,” McAnally said. “And most of the teachers here are very trustworthy.”
Monte Bella principal Roberto Nuñez said the idea came to life thanks to the Culture and Climate team, which is responsible for putting together events that promote positivity and create a safe environment. And the purpose of wearing the pink shirts was part of the school’s ongoing anti-bullying activities.
“To get the kids out here and physically spell the word, hopefully it continues ingraining what we’re doing with our anti-bullying campaign,” Nuñez said.
Monte Bella started the campaign last year. Nuñez said part of the message is to reeducate both parents and students what the word really means.
Nuñez said the school has three behavioral expectations: respectful, responsible and ready.
“But it all starts with respect,” Nuñez said. “From our early ancestors, to respect yourself, you respect others.”
Pink Shirt Day is recognized worldwide and people wear pink or sometimes purple and blue shirts to symbolize a stand against bullying. The idea started 10 years ago in Nova Scotia, Canada when two high school students took a stand against bullying in their own school.
Weesner said Harmony at Home was the first organization that brought bullying prevention programs into the schools in Salinas. She added there are currently 14 schools with a program with potential for more down the road.
“We’d love to be in every single school throughout the entire county because bullying is something that touches so many people’s lives,” she said. “Many people have experienced it either directly or indirectly. And like any form of abuse like domestic abuse, child abuse or sexual abuse, bullying is pure abuse and we just don’t have to tolerate it.”
Weesner said people used to believe it was a part of growing up, but she doesn’t agree with it.
“It’s violence. And we can help change that, all of us in the community,” Weesner said.
McAnally couldn’t agree more.
“I want people to make sure that they’re not being bystanders,” she said. “They should stand up for the people that actually are being bullied.”
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Written by:By Juan Reyes