In 2007, in a small town in Nova Scotia, something big happened. A grade 9 boy came to school wearing a pink shirt and was bullied for this choice. Two older boys witnessed this bullying and chose to take a stand—David Sheppard and Travis Price went to their local dollar store and bought about 50 pink tank tops.
The next morning, they and their friends wore the shirts to school as a show of solidarity with the younger boy and a movement was born! Last year alone, people in almost 180 countries shared their support of Pink Shirt Day through social media posts and donations.
As a classroom teacher at Lutherwood I see the impact of bullying firsthand. Many of our students, who face challenges related to their mental health, report bullying in their home schools and communities. The results of this bullying are apparent: missed school, lowered self-esteem, an avoidance of healthy risk taking, and a lack of trust in peers and in the adults around them.
Recently, my class spent some time learning more about bullying prevention. This is some of the advice my students want everyone to know about bullying at schools:
1) - Even if you think it isn’t, bullying is likely happening at your school
2) - Bullied students feel embarrassed and ashamed—so they don’t go to adults for help
3) - If you are witnessing bullying, you can support a peer by reporting it to an adult
4) - You can reduce bullying by acting as an “upstander”—that is a peer who counteracts bullying by doing things like inviting the bullied student to play or eat lunch with you
5) - You should reach out to peers who are bullied—there is strength in numbers
Creating a community of like-minded peers can make bullied students feel safer and less isolated As a teacher, my advice to other adults supporting young people around bullying is as follows:
1) - Listen to the young people in your life and ask questions about their experiences—they may not be forthcoming about bullying or other negative experiences they are having at school
2) -Support young people to develop healthy social skills and coping strategies—kids who have the skills to manage conflict and big emotions are less likely to act out as bullies or to be a victim
3) -Remember that every schoolyard conflict isn’t bullying—it’s a delicate balance as a parent or caregiver to validate our children’s experiences without disempowering them or placing them in a victim role—as caring adults we need to help them develop their own strengths and network of supports
4) -Be an upstanding role-model by supporting marginalized groups in your community—a great way to start is to get your pink shirt ready and start the conversation with your kiddos about what they and their friends are experiencing at school
On February 26, 2020, we encourage everyone to practice kindness and wear pink to symbolize that you do not tolerate bullying.