At this Maui school, the simple act of wearing orange is sending a strong anti-bullying message

The school came together to take a strong stance against bullying on Statewide Unity Day.
Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 6:29 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 19, 2022 at 10:43 PM HST
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WAIHEE (HawaiiNewsNow) - At Waihee Elementary on Wednesday, the entire student body came to class wearing orange. The reason: “Unity Day.”

It’s all part of National Bullying Prevention Month.

“Orange is really symbolic because it means warm and inviting. It’s a very inviting color, and also safety, protection,” said Waihee Elementary School Principal Paula Inouye.

Second-grade teacher Dawn Kahalehau said it’s vital to share an anti-bullying message early.

“As students get older and stuff, we have suicide rates going up, we have depression, we have all kinds of things. So, we want to make sure that we get them now when they’re young,” she said.

According to the latest CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey, about 13% of Maui County high schoolers have attempted suicide in the past 12 months. About 13% of Maui County middle schoolers have also admitted to attempting suicide at least once. The survey does not ask elementary school students these questions.

However, Waihee Elementary School teachers and staff say it is important to create a safe space for students.

“We solve our problems with kind words we do not use our hands or feet to solve our problems,” said Waihee Elementary School counselor Maile Viela, during a schoolwide lesson on the importance of being kind.

“At our school, we are not bullies,” Viela added, in the lesson to students.

Students embraced the message, too.

“It makes people feel sad and hurt when people bully them,” said fifth grader Capo Ugale.

For 10-year-old Capo Ugale, the solution is simple.

“We should stop bullying because it would make people feel better about themselves and not get hurt by bullies anymore, and it would also help schools have happier children,” Ugale said.