Every year, schools across the country participate in Pink Shirt Day for a little bit over a decade. However, the meaning of Pink Shirt Day has been sugarcoated towards students over the years, and is even forgotten at times.
The movement has roots in Halifax, Canada, where a grade nine boy was being bullied for wearing a pink shirt. Two grade 12 boys, David Shepherd and Travis Price, took a stand against this and distributed pink shirts to students the next day. Mr. Price stated that it “...looked like a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders,” when the bullied boy saw waves of pink upon entering the school.
Although Pink Shirt Day is still a relatively new movement, bullying isn’t. And with the development of technology and social media, bullying is now being moved from in person, to an online stage, making it harder to track but easier to do. Despite this, there are many people, students and teachers alike, who are dedicated to preventing bullying and encouraging inclusiveness. Fatima Rua, the Vice President of Student Council, spoke to us about how her position gives her a platform to bring awareness to issues like bullying: “As a student myself, I believe it is very important that I share my experiences from being bullied in the past, in order to help other students who are being bullied right now. Being a teenager in this generation is quite difficult because there are so many different areas where bullying may occur.” Fatima believes there are a plethora of resources and groups that can help people who are being bullied and encourage people to join groups as such.
The GSA (Gay-Sexuality Alliance) club advocates against bullying and encourages inclusiveness. Ms. Liew, a sponsor of the club, said she became much more aware of Pink Shirt Day through this club. However, Ms. Liew plays a different role when it comes to advocating against bullying. She tries to incorporate issues, like bullying, into her classroom discussions, especially since her area of education is in the Socials department. “If you have ever been in my class, you know that it is easy to get me off topic if you bring up an important real-life issue. When bullying comes up, I always like to discuss it and address ways in which people can respond.”
It’s easier said than done to prevent and stop bullying or harassment. It seems that a lot of the onus is on the students themselves; they should know better than to put others down. But it also puts into question the role that schools play in terms of preventing such issues from occurring. When asked about the quality of the education schools provide about bullying, our two guests provided well-thought answers. Fatima thought that schools do “...an all right job at educating students about bullying. This issue affects all students, so I think that there should always be assemblies that are specific to bullying and the repercussions that occur if it were to happen, since there is not a dedicated assembly about this issue, many students don’t take the consequences into consideration.” However, Ms. Liew thinks it varies from school to school, and she believes that elementary schools invest a lot of time into educating young students. “I know a lot of high schools do as well though they tend to focus more on cyberbullying and appropriate use of social media. The information is out there, but I think the real change needs to come. Don't just look for signs of bullying behaviour in others; honestly examine your own behaviour.”
Pink Shirt Day is an annual, international event that raises awareness of bullying. Those who participate in the movement by wearing pink are helping prevent bullying and cyberbullying. Nonetheless, wearing a pink shirt does not magically combat bullying. We can all take action to prevent bullying by starting a simple conversation. Beginning a conversation about bullying increases the acknowledgement of the issue and encourages more conversations to commence.
If you or anyone else around you have experienced bullying, do not hesitate to reach out to a trusted adult who you feel comfortable talking to. Confiding with an adult will not only prevent you from getting bullied but prevents the same situation from occurring to others.
“About Us.” Pink Shirt Day, www.pinkshirtday.ca/about.