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Challenges faced by homosexuals & bisexuals

An approach to school bullying:
organize a 'sea of pink'

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A Grade 9 male student at Central Kings Rural High School in Nova Scotia on Canada's East coast wore a pink polo shirt on the first day of school, 2007-SEP-05. Six to ten bullies, apparently wishing to display their intolerance of homosexuals and emphasize their heterosexuality, bullied the student. They called him a homosexual because he wore pink; they threatened to beat him up.

Two senior (Grade 12) students, David Shepherd (left) and Travis Price (right) -- heard of the incident and decided to take action. Shepherd said: "I just figured enough was enough."  They E-mailed fellow classmates to drum up support. They went to a discount store and purchased fifty pink shirts, t-shirts, tank tops, etc. for male students. They handed them them out in the school lobby on SEP-14. They also brought a pink basketball and material for pink headbands and arm bands. They ran short pf clothing and went back to the store that morning. The employees opened early so that they could search for more pink clothing.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation noted: "... a tsunami of support poured in" Dozens of students wore the shirts that Shepherd and Price had distributed. However, more than 350 students arrived wearing their own pink clothes -- some head to toe. About half of the school's 830 students wore pink, including one of the bullies!

Some of the classmates of the bullied student's classmates, who remains anonymous, described his arrival at school as a powerful moment. David Shepherd said:

"Definitely it looked like there was a big weight lifted off his shoulders. He went from looking right depressed to being as happy as can be. ... If you can get more people against them ... to show that we're not going to put up with it and support each other, then they're not as big as a group as they think are."

Travis Price said:

"It's been totally overwhelming for us. I mean we're just two local boys and I mean we're getting calls from like Alaska and e-mails. It's just phenomenal the support that we've gotten from across the globe."

He also said:

"The bullies got angry. One guy was throwing chairs (in the cafeteria). We’re glad we got the response we wanted."

Stephen Pearl, the school principal said:

"You're always hearing about the youth of the world and how bad things are. Well, they're not that bad."

Meanwhile, the bullies have not been heard from.

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Reaction outside of the high school:

The students' "sea of pink" campaign was first published on 2007-SEP-20. It did not go unnoticed outside the province:

bullet U.S. talk show host Ellen DeGeneres expressed interest in their story.
bullet Other schools are talking about organizing their own "pink day."
bullet CBS interviewed the two students on SEP-21.
bullet The largest newspaper in Spain is reporting the story.
bullet Travis said: "I’ve talked more in the past couple of days than I have in my whole life." By the morning of SEP-21, they had been deluged with 30 E-mails from the U.S., Bermuda, Norway, and Switzerland.
bullet They appreciate the recognition. However, David Shepherd said:

"We don’t want to move the focus from the situation onto us. People say, 'You’re celebrities, you’ll go down in the history books of the school,' but that’s not what we set out to do."

Travis price added:

"People say you’re famous, heroes or celebrities. We’re not, we’re just two kids who stood up for a cause."

bullet By SEP-22, they have been interviewed by two local TV stations, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and a Montreal talk-radio station. Their Member of Parliament, Scot Brison, contacted them via Facebook. Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald faxed a letter to their school.
bullet Travis and David are writing a proposal to the regional school board to teach about bullying and the pain it can cause in elementary school.
bullet On SEP-21, several Nova Scotia schools, including Sir John A. Macdonald High in Upper Tantallon, and North Nova Education Centre, in New Glasgow held their own "wear pink" day. Some students who didn't wear pink had their faces painted.
bullet The CBC News has a group of photographs titled "A sea of pink for tolerance" on their web site. 4
bullet Rodney MacDonald -- no relation to Ronald MacDonald -- who is the premier of Nova Scotia, wore a pink necktie on 2007-SEP-26 as he declared the second Thursday after the start of each school year as "Stand Up Against Bullying Day." That's one province taking action, with 9 provinces, 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 3 territories to go in North America.
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Individual feedback:

bullet Posted at http://www.NovaNewsNow.com
bullet Joshua Hatt:

I graduated from CK in 2003. I am currently in the Bachelor of Education Program at Trent University. I was speaking with my mother this evening, and she told me about what was going on at CK [Central Kings] these days. She told me about this article. I used to be bullied when I was in junior high, and never had I experienced the compassion and drive of the students at CK today. I was always proud to be an alumnus of CK, but never until this day was I ever so proud to call myself a Gator! Kudos to you students/staff of Central Kings Rural High - Bullying needs to end, and it takes people like YOU to put it to an end. Simply put: I am so glad to be entering the world as an educator with people like you out there!! So very proud - Congratulations.

bullet Phil Walker:

"I am very happy that this story is receiving provincial and hopefully national attention. This bullying problem has been handled in a great way and I hope the message gets out to other present and future bullies.  School bullying is everyone’s business and these students have really stepped up!

bullet Pamela Walker:

I have never been prouder to say,"I'm a Nova Scotianer". Well Central Kings... way to stay up and fight back!!! We can all make a difference and make bullying a thing of the past. You've got my attention all the way in Ontario and I'll be passing this story around. My child is bullied and it's tough to get the teachers and principal to take notice with all the other issues in school. It's not a wonder, but someone has to do something. Parents can't be at school all day long (lol).

bullet Posted at http://www.Gay.com :
bullet "Gene P" posted at Gay.com:

"Being colour blind makes the shirt colour moot as far as I'm concerned. Although, what does concern me is that those bullies could very likely return to the school with guns. It seems that the student body is far brighter than the faculty at that school since the constables were not called for the chair throwing incident."

bullet "Anlagu" also posted at Gay.com:

"I think as punishment, the 2 bullies should have to go and work for free being janitors for 1 or 2 local gay bars for 1 month wearing pink shirts, shorts and shoes. Just a thought!!"

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Bullied student tickled pink by schoolmates' T-shirt campaign," CBC News, 2007-SEP-19, at: http://www.cbc.ca/

  2. Ian Fariclough, "Pink shirts legend grows," Chronicle Herald, Halifax NS, undated, at: http://www.thechronicleherald.ca/

  3. Ian Fariclough, " 'I've stood around too long.' Central Kings students wear pink to send bullies a message," Chronicle Herald, Halifax NS, undated, at: http://www.thechronicleherald.ca/

  4. "A sea of pink for tolerance," CBC News Online, at: http://www.cbc.ca/

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"Safe to Learn" website:

By coincidence, a new anti-bullying web-based resource for schools was launched on 2007-SEP-23, just as news about the Nova Scotia pink program was being covered in the media. The web site is at: http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/. It is written for UK schools. However, its material is well organized and appears to be directly applicable to North American schools. Homophobic bullies in the U.S. and Canada do not differ much from those in the UK.

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Home > Homosexuality & Bisexuality > Challenges > here

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Copyright © 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-SEP-23
Latest update: 2007-SEP-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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