The second annual Pink Shirt Day is set to take place February 25. On that day, everyone, both young and old, is encouraged to wear pink as a means to bring awareness to the growing problem of bullying.
The genesis of Pink Shirt Day came from rural Nova Scotia where a 14 year old boy was picked on for wearing a pink shirt on the first day of school. Two older students decided to stand-up for their schoolmate; they purchased pink tops and distributed them to all the boys in the school. The next morning, 50 boys in pink huddled around the bullied teen in a show of support. The creative protest worked – the tormenters were silenced.
That small show of protest has turned into an event of vast proportions.
“This event has just taken off,” says Dave Teixeira co-founder and project coordinator of BC’s Pink Shirt Day.
“Last year we had over 128,000 sign up on Facebook. I think we will double that this year.”
In British Columbia, it’s estimated that 10% of students are bullied on a regular basis. While physical schoolyard bullying is easier to detect, it’s the subtle psychological bullying – the name calling, the excluding, the rumor mongering, the gossiping – that is often more prevalent.
Furthermore, with the advent of communication technologies, face to face assaults have been progressively replaced by a pervasive online bashing. Savvy students are increasingly using Instant Messaging, e-mails, chat rooms, and social networking sites to bully their peers.
“It’s used to be that you would be at school and the bully would be at school and you could walk away from it,” says Teixeira.
“Now you can have this person virtually bully you as well. They text, email, or even put disgusting comments about you on a Facebook or MySpace page.”
While many still hold on to the antiquated belief that ‘bullying is no big deal and is normal’ or that ‘being bullied is good for you’ its consequences are finally becoming evident. In recent years we’ve seen an increase in the number of teenage suicides by victims of bullying. There has also been more focus on the long the term psychological impacts of bullying.
“When I was in grade 6, I was bullied by a group of girls who, unexpectedly, decided to exclude me, turn my classmates against me, and spread rumours about me,” says Colette – a 32 year old Vancouver based consultant.
“The bullying was entire psychological and was always slyly done – adults never saw it and were not aware of it. Today, many years later, it still effects me, specifically with my relationships with other women. I constantly feel as if I have to prove my worth to them, as a friend”
Teixeira contends that bullying is an emerging problem that needs be addressed in our schools immediately. The goal of the Pink Shirt campaign is to bring awareness to all forms of bullying and ultimately educate students about prevention.