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Sticks and stones may break bones, but words can still hurt – that's the message of No Name-Calling Week, an initiative to eliminate hurtful slurs, particularly as they affect LGBTQ2+ students.
Started in 2004, No Name-Calling Week (Jan. 18 to 22) was inspired by James Howe's
The Misfits, a novel about a group of bullied students who run for student council on a no name-calling platform. The week was founded by Simon & Schuster's Children's Publishing and evaluated by research from GLSEN, a U.S. education organization working to promote inclusion and end discrimination of LGBTQ2+ students.
"It's a society-wide issue that we're dealing with, and language is a big piece of this kind of work," said Nicole Curtis, the district's inclusive practices helping teacher for SOGI (sexual orientation & gender identity) and anti-racism.
"It's important to be aware of and sensitive to different words that people prefer, their pronouns, and different pieces of how language works in oppression. Words can be used to validate and invalidate others, like if you don't fit into a certain idea, you can be pushed out and marginalized."
Curtis said name-calling is a more prevalent type of bullying against LGBTQ2+ youth, and extends beyond the classroom to cyberbullying over social media, all of which can damage their self-esteem, make them feel unsafe at school and negatively impact them socially and emotionally.
"Surrey Schools and a lot of other districts have really clear policy around discrimination, and you can see physical violence happening, whereas words and cyberbullying are a lot harder to pinpoint and shut down," she said. "Because they're so much more vulnerable from the oppression that they face, this is just one more piece that we can work on in schools that is tangible."
While this is the first year Surrey Schools has participated in No Name-Calling Week as a district, Curtis said she hopes it will instill kindness in students as they recognize how their words affect others.
"It's not just a once-a-year thing, this is happening for kids all the time and it's an issue that is ongoing," she said. "We want to build empathy and inclusion, and this is one piece that we can make kids aware of and how damaging it is for others."
For more information on No Name-Calling Week, see
this flyer or the event website