Five years on and students are wearing pink for this special day in September. But the question is whether Pink Shirt Day is helping put a stop to bullying in schools.
The idea, of course, is solidarity. And this annual tradition is a good, graphic way for young people to stand together and demand mutual respect among their peers.
But like many symbols, there is the risk of the message getting lost without day-to-day followup and continual resolve to stand up to the people who bully.
As most people know, Pink Shirt Day got its start five years ago when a couple of senior students at an Annapolis Valley school observed a younger student being threatened because he was wearing a pink shirt. They responded by showing up next day wearing pink shirts and handing them out to others to make a statement and stand against the offenders saying their attitudes wouldn’t be tolerated.
That’s the way it works, simple but brilliant. That first Pink Shirt Day and the subsequent annual event across the country show that a small percentage of people are bullies. When they do get away with bullying is when people aren’t observant and fail to stand together.
Nova Scotia saw the provincial government mount a task force to look at bullying and make recommendations. Have those been implemented? From the beginning the task force report got tied up in the question of whether a provincial co-ordinator should be appointed.
The students themselves need to feel the spirit of Pink Shirt Day every day of the year. It has to become a change of heart and mindset, making simple observations about friends and classmates and then stepping in, as a group if need be, when instances of bullying are evident.
In addition, putting any kind of onus on the victims might seem out of place. But in such instances, they should be urged not to remain silent. Speak out when it happens to you – because you can be assured that 98 per cent of the student population will side with you.