It didn’t take a fistfight to sort out the swaggering bullies at a Nova Scotia high school five years ago . . . just 50 pink T-shirts purchased from a discount store.
Male students wore those T-shirts as a sign of support for a new Grade 9 boy who’d been bullied for wearing a pink shirt on his first day at the school. It was a simple, but powerful act that robbed the bullies of their power to isolate and humiliate their victim.
David Shepherd and Travis Price were the 17-year-old Grade 12 students who came up with the T-shirt idea, which has since come to symbolize the fight against bullying in all its forms in Canada.
Pink shirt days have become annual anti-bullying events across the country and today is Canadian Red Cross Pink Shirt Day in Saskatchewan. Designed to “bring awareness to bullying issues and what we can do to create a safe and respectful environment in our communities,” the event will see pink worn in classrooms and workplaces across the province.
It’s particularly appropriate that young people inspired the pink shirt movement since many high-profile bullying cases involve teenagers.
In January, for example, an Estevan judge convicted a teen of assault causing bodily harm for kicking another boy in the groin so hard the victim subsequently needed surgery and lost a testicle.
Bullying is all about power – bullies intimidate, humiliate and often physically hurt someone else in a twisted attempt to make themselves feel powerful. Anyone they perceive as weaker or just plain different is fair game.
We were made aware of a deeply disturbing example this week by a reader who wishes to simply be known as “breast cancer fighter”.
She writes: “So much is said about bullying happening in the schools, and I feel for anyone who has experienced it. However, due to the fact that very little is done to curb it, it has now spilt over into everyday society. It has now become the ‘norm’ to verbally abuse people for entertainment.”
The woman is undergoing chemotherapy and recently developed serious, possibly life-threatening complications, While waiting for a friend outside her house, she says “two teenage boys thought it was entertaining to scream verbal abuse at me while they drove by.”
Shocking indeed – would these idiots subject their own mothers or sisters to such vile taunts?
Bullies make life a misery in school, in personal relationships and in the workplace. We must work to improve education and awareness to help stop bullying.
Sadly, that’s unlikely to be enough. We also need effective laws to deal with bullying – and the will to enforce them.
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