You know it when you see it, yet all too often, it goes unaddressed. “It” is the epidemic of bullying that’s sweeping schools across the country. Wednesday, Feb. 29 is national Pink Shirt Day, a time when the country comes together to send the message that bullying won’t be tolerated anymore, anywhere, anytime.
The national pink shirt campaign was the brainchild of David Shepherd and Travis Price, two former Grade 9 students from Nova Scotia, who took a stand against bullying by distributing pink T-shirts to the boys in their school in support of a classmate who’d been bullied.
“I learned two people can come up with an idea, run with it and it can do wonders,” says Price, now 17. “Finally, someone stood up for the weaker kid.”
Bullying takes many forms and can happen almost anywhere, but it’s most prevalent in schools and online. Signs of a student being bullied include feelings of rejection, low self-esteem, poor grades, isolation, social withdrawal, aggressiveness and nervousness. Often, students become fearful of attending school and demonstrate extreme sensitivity. Many parents miss these signs, believing their child is simply “going through a phase.”
“One of the biggest mistakes parents make is assuming that bullying will just fade away,” says Dr. Michele Borba, a parenting and bullying prevention expert. “Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is just a phase or a boys’ rite of passage.”
One study found that nearly 60 per cent of males who were chronic bullies in junior high school had at least one criminal conviction by the age of 24. Borba believes the only way to curb bullying is intervention.
“No matter what age, gender, religion, or ethnicity, any child resorting to bullying needs an immediate behaviour intervention. Set up an appointment with the school counsellor or psychologist. You’ll need a specific plan tailored to your child to stop this behaviour,” she says.
Jonathan Brady, principal at Barriere Secondary School says the school is honouring the day with a quiet show of support.
“We’ve generally had an anti-bullying day where we promote pink wearing and there’s posters and information on our announcements to highlight the day,” says Brady.
Since its inception in 2007, the Pink Shirt Day campaign has grown into an international movement and is now supported by thousands of people in over 75 countries sharing the message “bullying stops here.”