NELSON: Pink Shirt Day is about bullying the bullies

FACE TO FACE: Is Pink Shirt Day a worthwhile and helpful way to battle bullying?

The annual Pink Shirt Day extravaganza is coming soon. Pink Shirt Day is such an easy sell. Its simplicity appeals to us: “Bullying Stops Here.”

Unfortunately, the simplistic message of Pink Shirt Day doesn’t stop bullies or help victims; rather, it just expresses anger towards bullies.

We’re all against bullying — we’re sold. Expressing our frustration with bullying is preaching to the choir.

But the slogan “Bullying Stops Here” says more. It’s a swashbuckling slogan of zero tolerance that says we should become an army of big brothers who accost any bully who so much as sneers at anyone.

Wearing pink began in a Nova Scotia high school. Having seen a Grade 9 boy teased because his shirt was a shade approaching pink, two Grade 12 boys donned pink shirts in solidarity. The gesture caught on in the school and went viral in North America. There are few stories more touching and powerful. That maritime bullying victim was bathed with peer support.

But then adults took over the idea and the peer power of wearing pink was lost. To peer-focused tweeners, the idea is now just well-meaning adult prattle.

But in B.C., the adult iteration of Pink Shirt Day is the worst because in addition to a counterproductive bully-the-bully strategy, it’s infused with a Christy Clark-inspired tinge of indictment of educators — schools must be exhorted to stop ignoring bullying.

But bullying didn’t start in schools. Bullying is modelled and encouraged in all our institutions; in our homes, in the business world and sports arenas.

Judge Judy, Gordon Ramsay, Don Cherry, The Apprentice — everywhere they look, our children learn that being a successful bully yields success in life.

Everywhere except in schools. Schools encourage and model co-operation, tolerance and kindness. Bullying is common in schools only because that’s where children are all day.  Schools are the only institutions that actively fight bullying and they need our help.

So instead of Pink Shirt Day, “getting tough” with bullies and working independent of schools, let’s all wear pink shirts with slogans that say: “Let’s support our educators in their work with bullies and victims.”

That might help and that would be worth wearing pink for.

Face to Face columnist Jim Nelson is a retired Tri-City teacher and principal who lives in Port Moody. He has contributed a number of columns on education-related issues to The Tri-City News.

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