The children from Erickson Elementary School made more than a fashion statement last month when they donned the colour pink and paraded down Main Street carrying pink banners.
Known as “Pink Shirt Day,” the event originated in Nova Scotia in 2007 when two Grade 12 students from Central Kings Rural High School in the Annapolis Valley noticed that a new Grade 9 student was being harassed for wearing a pink polo shirt. After school, they went to a local thrift shop and purchased over 50 pink shirts and then, via email, text messaging and telephone, they organized their fellow students. The next day there was a sea of pink flooding the hallways of the high school, delivering the message that bullying is not tolerated at their school. It was a powerful act of solidarity.
Their successful pink shirt campaign pointed to the influence that students have among their peers, and for that reason, Pink Shirt Day has spread throughout Canadian communities.
These days our schools provide education that encourages awareness about bullying and teaches skills to encourage empathy building and problem solving. Jocelyn Preisinger is one of four “Peace Ambassadors” at Erickson Elementary School who are trained to follow four steps to help their peers solve problems, with the goal of having bullies apologize and the students perhaps sharing a hug.
Joining in the Pink Shirt Day anti-bullying campaign was one more step to help stop students from mistreating each other. Erickson’s young people not only wore pink shirts, but also pink pants, socks, jackets, shoes, scarves, hats and nail polish! Dana Hanson, school guidance counsellor said, “For those who didn’t have pink handy in their closets, they opted to either tie a piece of pink material around their head as a headband or around their arm as an arm band. Some wore the pink material as ties as well. It was great!”
Bystanders learned about Pink Shirt Day, too. The students, encouraged by big smiles, honks and waves, spontaneously began to chant “Bullying Stops Here!” They have learned that it is OK to speak out if they are being victimized and to stand up for others in need of support. They feel empowered that they can make a change in their own school environment. To Preisinger, the absence of bullying feels like “freedom.” Grade 2 students Gage Geletchuk and Lucas Beatty found it difficult to put their feelings into words, but thought it was important that we all know that bullying is “not good.”
Bullying has long been an issue whenever children gather to learn or to play. Do I think that bullying will stop? No. But, do I think that these efforts will help students to resist or even refuse to submit to bullying? Absolutely! – Candy Irwin writes from
Lake Audy, Manitoba