Pink Shirt Day is a national movement against bullying and a show of support and solidarity with those who have experienced bullying and harassment. As the name of the event suggests, joining this movement is done by wearing a pink shirt.
It all started in 2007, when two Nova Scotian students discovered that a fellow student was being called homophobic slurs and threatened with physical violence.
The cause of the bullying? The student was wearing a pink polo shirt on his first day of school.
In response, the two students purchased 50 pink shirts, which they distributed at school and wore in solidarity with their schoolmate. Inspired by this small movement, people across the country followed suit and now, Pink Shirt Day is an enduring, national protest against bullying with more people joining every year.
“Pink Shirt Day is important to all schools and to all students because bullying affects all of us.” ADLC Academic Counsellor, Gary Simpson said. As an adviser to countless students, Gary is well aware of the importance and need for visible shows of support like this.
“Over the years, I have heard many heartbreaking stories from students who were bullied out of traditional schools. In some cases, students who have been bullied leave school blaming themselves for their lack of academic and career success, not the bullies.”
Regardless of whether a student is being targeted for their sexual orientation, religion or race, being bullied has an undeniable effect on students. The trauma of harassment can cause emotional distress, anxiety, and depression that can last far beyond the events themselves.
However, positive steps forward have been made in the fight against bullying. Studies have come out suggesting that schools with clear anti-bullying policies and Gay-Straight alliances experience significantly less bullying. And, as the 2007 event that triggered Pink Shirt Day shows, it can take as little as a change in one’s appearance to signal that you are a safe and inclusive person to be around.
Visible shows of support can help vulnerable individuals identify allies and when people lead the way and stand up against bullying, other people follow.
“Growing numbers of teachers, counsellors, mental health professionals and clergy are taking the position that they have an ethical obligation to go beyond providing support for people who experienced bullying and believe that they need to help reduce the frequency of bullying,” Gary explained.
“I’m glad that Alberta Distance Learning Centre supports staff, teachers, counselors and administrators in taking bullying seriously. Pink Shirt Day is a very visible sign of support to students who have experienced bullying.”