Iqaluit students take stand against bullying
"I find that bullying makes you ugly"
Students at Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit have formed an anti-bullying group.
Their message: bullying will not be tolerated in their school.
“Believe me, the staff and administration is fabulous here,” Grant said. “Bullying is not something that is ignored. But it is the peers who are going to change the culture around bullying.”
Art teacher Linda Grant first approached a group of her senior art students last September about befriending a student in Grade 9 who was being bullied.
Grade 12 student Neoma Kippomee-Cox suggested they form an anti-bullying group. Other students in her class agreed this was a great idea.
The group reached out to the younger girl, who was being harassed, to let her know she could hang out with them.
“I can’t understand why anyone would want to bully her, because when she is around you, she just makes you happy,” Kippomee-Cox said.
“She was just so strong coming to school after all of her feelings were hurt. I find that bullying makes you ugly.”
That’s the strength which students wanted to encourage by creating a safe environment for the school’s 450 students.
Right from the start, they recognized the importance of maintaining a neutral approach to avoid becoming bullies themselves.
“We try to be as neutral as possible,” Kippomee-Cox said. “We don’t pick sides.”
So while the student group maintains zero tolerance for bullying, its members are always ready to embrace the bully, too.
“We realize that there are two sides to every story,” Kippomee-Cox said. “Sometimes those individuals who are doing the bullying have issues of their own. We are here for them as well.”
The students found that social media sites like Facebook can drive bullying because it offers an anonymous platform.
But, as a result, it hasn’t always been clear where the bullying is coming from.
This has made it harder for the administration to deal with some incidents.
And that’s where the members of anti-bullying group have been able to make a difference.
“We actually addressed a group about a Facebook account going wrong and told them about different the different types of abuse,” Kippomee-Cox said. “We explained that it is not just physical and verbal, but it is also cyber abuse. They were continuing with it until we told them to stop. I guess they just didn’t understand how hurtful this was.”
Kippomee-Cox’s role in the group and her leadership qualities have been noticed within Iqaluit.
During the Dec. 6 ceremony for the Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, Kippomee-Cox received the Jennifer Naglingniq Memorial Award, in part for her involvement with the anti-bullying group.
On Dec. 5, 2002, 13-year-old Jennifer Naglingniq, a student at Inuksuk, had helped hang up Christmas decorations at the school. Then, during the early hours of Dec. 6, she was found raped and murdered in her home.
A memorial fund was later to create an annual award in Jennifer’s name for a student at Inuksuk who contributes to making Iqaluit a better place.
While proud and honoured to have won the award, Kippomee-Cox doesn’t feel right in being singled out ahead of her classmates.
“I did the same amount of work as everyone else,” Kippomee-Cox said. “It would have been fairer if everyone in my anti-bullying group had been nominated.”
The students want to see their group grow and the idea of a student anti-bullying group spread to other schools in Iqaluit and throughout Nunavut.