Chances are you’ve heard of Pink Shirt Day. Perhaps your office is encouraging you and your colleagues to participate. Perhaps your kids are celebrating at school, or you’ve heard about an upcoming anti-bullying day on the news. Perhaps you are organizing a school or community initiative, selling or giving away branded pink shirts, distributing posters, and actively promoting the day.
At Safe and Caring, our own Pink Shirt Day infographic, created in partnership with the Government of Alberta, encourages you to #StandUp and show your support for those who experience bullying by donning pink on February 24. But what exactly are we standing up for?
The original Pink Shirt Day was organized in small town Berwick, Nova Scotia, when a 9th grade student was bullied for wearing a pink shirt on his first day at school. Fellow students responded by encouraging everyone to wear their own pink shirts the next day, to symbolize that their support for that kid, and that homophobic bullying isn’t tolerated at their school.
If you are interested in learning more about the story, check out this short video.
The magic of the Pink Shirt Day story is not that some students stood up for a younger, and more vulnerable peer, or that they set a new fashion trend in their school. This is a story of how a student body overcame their differences in age, interests, backgrounds, and social cliques to stand up for something important to them. A story of how those students ensured that their school environment was safe and caring for newcomers and respectful of different backgrounds, where all students can feel a sense of belonging. It’s a story of how those students stood up for and modeled healthy relationships at their school.
Increasingly, evidence shows that healthy relationships are much more effective at ending bullying than anti-bullying rules and punishment. Components of healthy relationships include trust, respect, fairness, equality, stability, enjoyment, contentment, and belonging. When kids respect each other, and have a personal connection to their classmates – even something as small as knowing their names – they are much less likely to purposefully hurt them. Healthy relationships are also proven to increase our resilience, self-confidence, pro-social skills, stress management, and overall well-being, so that even if kids experience bullying, healthy relationships better prepare them to cope, and ensure that they have a support network of trusted peers and adults to help them navigate the situation.
So when you get dressed this Wednesday, remember that when you put on your pink shirt, you aren’t just standing up against bullying, you are standing up in support of positive relationships. In support of respect, friendship, emotional safety, and caring.
Use this day of pink as a reminder to always model positive relationships with the children, young adults, and indeed, even fellow adults, in your life. By doing so, you can show them the value of caring and respectful interactions, and make a true and lasting difference in their lives, regardless of the colour of your shirt.