It’s going to take more than the efforts of a dedicated few to put an end to bullying.
But, a dedicated few is a good start.
Anti-bullying icon Travis Price, co-founder of Pink Shirt Day, visited Avon View High School Sept. 13 to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the international movement he started as a Grade 12 student at the Central Kings Rural High School in Cambridge.
Sporting a hot pink tee, with Pink Shirt Day printed on the front, the 22-year-old started his keynote speech by sharing his personal story with a gymnasium packed with Avon View’s students and staff.
“I was bullied my entire public school career,” he began.
Price’s small stature and shrill voice made him an easy target. He endured relentless taunting, and the occasional beat down for years until, one day, the bullies turned their attention to a younger male schoolmate wearing a pink shirt, and Price felt compelled to stand up for their latest victim.
Along with his classmate, David Shepherd, Price returned to school the following day sporting a pink tee with an anti-bullying logo scrawled across the front. Several schoolmates followed suit, donning pink clothes of their own, and the proactive pair wound up garnering international recognition for inspiring a collective stance against bullying.
“I co-started one of the fastest-moving anti-bullying movements to ever be created — Pink Shirt Day,” Price said.
“It took off like wildfire.”
When news of the event broke at the local level, national media outlets wanted a piece. The grassroots movement ultimately inspired the provincial government to dub every second Thursday in September “Stand Up Against Bullying Day,” and Price, who continues to organize anti-bullying events, has travelled across the country promoting the pink shirt campaign ever since.
Price came to Avon View on the fifth anniversary of Pink Shirt Day with one person in mind — 16-year-old Sarah Atwell.
The senior high student gained international attention this summer when she decided to shine a spotlight on bullying in her community.
Atwell, who is teased for having a tumour on her face, posted a video of herself holding cue cards decorated with hand-written messages summarizing her life story, and, in doing so, introducing complete strangers to the internalized pain she lives with as a result of bullying or ignorance.
“It shouldn’t matter how you dress, it shouldn’t matter how you look, it shouldn’t matter if you’ve got money or if you don’t. It shouldn’t matter where you live, or where you come from or what you come from. We are all the same. You should never forget that.” - Chuck Porter
Atwell’s courage exemplifies what Pink Shirt Day is all about, Price said.
“’It all starts with you guys respecting each other and saying, ‘I’m not going to make fun of this person because I don’t know what type of a day they’re having, and they don’t deserve it.’”
Price named Atwell the first honorary Pink Shirt Day member for raising awareness of bullying in her school, and being a role model for others.
“Bullying can force kids to take their lives,” Price stressed.
“We need more youth to step up to the plate. We need more youth like Sarah to do exactly what she did… when people come out and show that they’re being bullied, and ask for help, they’re going to get help.”
Price says it takes anarmy to overcome bullying by making it known that cruelty will not be tolerated.
“I need you guys — because I can’t be everywhere — that when you see bullying, you help put a stop to it. You step in and say, ‘Don’t do that, that’s not cool,’” he said.
“If you see somebody that’s being bullied, if you know somebody who has been bullied, talk to them. I look back at people now that helped me get through that time and they’re still my best friends, and they always will be, because they helped me through that crucial time in my life.”
Hants West MLA Chuck Porter joined Price in recognizing Atwell’s courage, and emphasizing the importance of treating others with respect. The former paramedic said bullying is a lethal issue.
“I can tell you personally, without going into any detailed stories, how bullying has affected families. That is no joke,” Porter said.
“It shouldn’t matter how you dress, it shouldn’t matter how you look, it shouldn’t matter if you’ve got money or if you don’t. It shouldn’t matter where you live, or where you come from or what you come from. We are all the same. You should never forget that.”