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Pink shirts symbolize anti-bullying message

JENN McGARRIGLE/The News Bulletin Hannah Taves, left, Hannah Payne, Lindsay Gilroy, Sarah Hogeweide and Jenna Mirau, Nanaimo District Secondary School students, hope to get all of their peers involved in Pink Shirt Day tomorrow, showing a united front against bullying. The five students are members of Empathy NDSS, a group of students who underwent training organized by the Vancouver Island Crisis Line on how to help youth in a time of crisis. The goal of the group is to shape the school into a safe place where students can be themselves. - Jenn McGarrigle photo
JENN McGARRIGLE/The News Bulletin Hannah Taves, left, Hannah Payne, Lindsay Gilroy, Sarah Hogeweide and Jenna Mirau, Nanaimo District Secondary School students, hope to get all of their peers involved in Pink Shirt Day tomorrow, showing a united front against bullying. The five students are members of Empathy NDSS, a group of students who underwent training organized by the Vancouver Island Crisis Line on how to help youth in a time of crisis. The goal of the group is to shape the school into a safe place where students can be themselves.
— image credit: Jenn McGarrigle photo

Nanaimo will be awash in a sea of pink Wednesday (Feb. 27) as hundreds of people don the colour to take a stand against bullying for Pink Shirt Day.

Pink Shirt Day started after two Nova Scotia high school boys encouraged their peers to wear pink to school one day in 2007 in support of a Grade 9 boy who was being bullied for wearing pink. The two senior students bought 50 pink shirts and distributed them at school one morning.

Now it is observed across the country, with people dressing in pink to show their support for creating a society where there is no tolerance for bullying.

Students and teachers say bullying is still happening in local schools.

Members of Empathy NDSS, a student group formed at Nanaimo District Secondary School to shape the school into a safe place where students can be themselves, get reports from their peers about name calling, teasing and cyber bullying.

But members feel their efforts to raise awareness and the peer mentoring they do are making a difference.

Member Hannah Payne said some people are starting to realize how hurtful words can be – the group supported two students who felt they were being bullied and it turned out they were complaining about each other.

“Our goal is to challenge the mindset at our school and I think we’re making a difference,” she said.

Pink Shirt Day is a big deal for the group – members collected orders for pink shirts bearing the group’s name and they plan to do workshops with Grade 8 classes.

“It’s really a day to remind people our school doesn’t stand for bullying,” said Payne. “The point is seeing everyone wearing pink, seeing everyone stand together.”

Susann Young, principal at Frank J. Ney Elementary School, said the school’s student council group is organizing a Pink Shirt Day assembly, during which students will act out the story of how the day came about.

To combat bullying at the school, Young is training Grades 5 and 6 students as playground buddies for the younger students. The buddies act as positive role models, involve students in activities and help them deal with conflicts.

“There’s definitely been some incidents over the years and it’s something that needs to be addressed,” said Young. “It’s an everywhere issue. If more and more people stand up and say that’s not appropriate, we can change the culture.”

And Pink Shirt Day is not just happening in schools.

The Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association is inviting people wearing pink to a group photo shoot at noon at Diana Krall Plaza.

Then at noon, people can join Skaana Community Resources at the Woodgrove Centre water clock to walk the centre in support of this cause.

Nanaimo residents can buy T-shirts at London Drugs, proceeds of which support the CKNW Orphans’ Fund and the Boys and Girls Clubs of B.C., and the Central Vancouver Island Boys and Girls Club is selling pins for $5 each at its Fifth Street location.

Linda Thomas, the organization’s manager of fundraising and community relations, said a staff member from the Nanaimo office came up with the idea for the pins.

“The pin is something you can wear year-round and you can put it on your purse or the pill of your jacket,” she said.

Coastal Community Credit Union employees have bought more than 370 of the pins to wear on that day.

For more information on Pink Shirt Day, please visit www.pinkshirtday.ca.

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