February 27 marks Pink Shirt Day in British Columbia. In its sixth year, this event is being recognized as “taking action to stop bullies in our school and around the province”. While the day here in Vancouver is often linked to local radio station CKNW 980 (through promotions of the day), Pink Shirt Day’s roots were set in Nova Scotia in 2007, from an incident regarding a Grade 9 boy who, on the first day of school, wore a pink polo shirt and was harassed because of it and labelled a homosexual. In response, hundreds of classmates showed up in a “sea of pink” to show their support.
With that bit of history, I need to make a confession — I have been slow to be a passionate and vocal supporter of the day. I am always a little skeptical when a lot of attention and resources are pushed toward a one-day event to recognize an important issue requiring serious thought and reflection. The reason — sometimes the very nature of a high-profile, one-day event can generate many simplistic sounding solutions to some very complicated problems. I am also wary that the conversations around anti-bullying can focus on all the behaviours we don’t want to see instead of those we want to see and encourage in our youth.
That said, I am a convert. Over the last few years I have seen Pink Shirt Day become a symbol for work that is happening during the course of the year in schools and in the community. Yes, it is only a one-day celebration of this work, but the work is not limited to the one day. In the West Vancouver School District, there are so many great examples of raising awareness and sustained and purposeful action.
Students from Gleneagles Ch’axáý Elementary School were part of a group of 2,000 students across Metro Vancouver, who participated in a flash mob at a Vancouver Giants game in January to focus attention on the issue of anti-bullying, acceptance and inclusion:
Schools across West Vancouver will also join the “sea of pink” this Wednesday, from École Cedardale Elementary, Hollyburn and Irwin Park Elementary to all three secondary schools. BUT, schools will be doing more than ‘wearing pink’. Rockridge Secondary students are connecting their antibullying efforts around restorative justice, and at École Pauline Johnson, the focus will be on work with and from their Virtues Project. Lions Bay will focus their antibullying efforts on how to do stop antibullying through inquiry, how they express themselves through body language and feelings, as well as how to solve problems peacefully. Chartwell’s Pink Shirt Day is a month-long focus on inclusion. While all of these efforts are a one-day statement, the learning experience is not just for one day.
So, I will be in my pink shirt this Wednesday, along with my own kids at their school, and many of our staff and students in West Vancouver. Yes, it is only one day, but the attention of one day will carry over to the next day, and the next.
There are many wonderful collections of resources to support anti-bullying in the classroom. The BC Ministry of Education’s ERASE Bullying site is an excellent spot to find resources for teachers, parents, and youth. I have also written two previous posts on the specific topic of anti-homophobia in 2011 and 2012 and both have links to other key resources.
One final video to share is Shane Koyczan’s To This Day Project: