Pink Shirt Day, also referred to as Anti-Bullying Day, was an event that had humble beginnings supporting one bullied Grade 9 student in Nova Scotia in 2007.
He was bullied for wearing a pink shirt and students David Shepherd and Travis Price took a stand and arranged a protest to wear pink in sympathy. They bought 50 pink tank tops and handed them out at their school.
It’s now a day marked and recognized across Canada on Feb. 25, and is celebrated internationally as well.
SURREY — Maya Bhogal can tell you first-hand that bullying is a significant issue in Surrey schools.
“We have liaisons in each of the high schools,” said Bhogal, who works in the district’s Safe Schools department.
“Even if it’s just to offer someone to talk to. A lot of kids may not have that connection with someone and they need that.”
But amidst the darkness, there’s light, she remarked.
“I definitely work with at-risk youth, but when you see this positivity, those are the things that make your day.”
She’s referring to several events planned at high schools throughout Surrey next Wednesday, for Pink Shirt Day, a day intended to combat and raise awareness about bullying.
“Year after year, there just becomes more schools involved in it in Surrey, more kids involved in it, and they love the idea about creating awareness and combatting it,” said Bhogal.
In Surrey, she’s noticed more social and cyber bullying in the last two to three years, as opposed to the more traditional physical bullying.
“A lot of it happens on a device. It travels from home to school so it’s with them all the time. You definitely still see traditional fights, but we have to understand that bullying is not just the physical side of it. For Anti-Bullying Day, we’re trying to talk about all the different types.”
Surrey has seen cases of fake accounts being created, and students not being aware that sending photos and videos to apps like Snapchat can be saved through things like screenshots.
The district, in partnership with RCMP, has launch a website (PSST-bc.ca), as a safe place for students to report bullying anonymously.
“Some kids don’t want to rat their friends out. They still want to be helpful and don’t want to be a hurtful bystander – you can be a helpful bystander instead,” said Bhogal.
“It’s been quite effective,” she said of the website.
Bhogal has personal reasons for getting into work helping victims of bullying.
“I’ve definitely been bullied in the past before,” she told the Now.
“It persisted throughout high school for me. It stays with you wherever you go.”
She said it’s what fuels her desire to work in Safe Schools.
“Getting help was a missing piece for me. I didn’t go to school in Surrey. There wasn’t as much support services available. So being in such a vast school district (as Surrey), with such a vast support system is just eye-opening.”
She offers advice for students who find themselves being bullied.
“The biggest piece is to talk to someone and to understand there’s so many avenues of help. So much is embedded into the school. Kids are scared to talk to someone because they don’t want to feel ousted. But think about the community surrounding you. Do you trust your teacher? A counsellor? School liaisons are eyes and ears at the schools,” said Bhogal.
“Find someone to talk to.”
The Surrey RCMP Youth Team also works to combat bullying, part of which includes educating children to use the internet safely. They speak to students as young as Grade 5.
Here are some events planned in local schools next week:
- Princess Margaret Secondary is celebrating Pink Shirt Day with a week’s worth of events, including Surrey Steps Up, for kids to showcase how they’re “stepping up” in their community.
- Clayton Heights is doing a Pink Shirt Day themed carnival at the school next Wednesday.
- Today, North Surrey Secondary is holding a Pink Shirt Day basketball game.
- Tamanawis Secondary is doing a pink T-shirt contest and candy grams on Wednesday.
- DOVE (Delta Opposes Violence Everywhere) will have booths set-up in all Delta Secondary schools on Pink Shirt Day to provide information about violence in relationships.
- All 31 schools in Delta will be doing something to recognize Pink Shirt Day.