The co-founder of what has become known across Canada as Pink Shirt Day, says bullying can stop in as little as 10 seconds if some decides to intervene.
Travis Price says it happened to him when a girl he met in high school became his “superhero.” And on Monday, talking to kids at Rutland Senior Secondary in Kelowna, he urged those on hand to be someone else’s superhero too.
“When you see someone being bullied, there are three things you can do—intervene, tell a teacher or walk away,” said Price, now 26. “Two of those are good choices.”
Price is now well-known for teaming up with a friend in 2007 to get students at his Nova Scotia high school to wear pink shirts in a show of support for another, younger student who they saw being bullied when he came to school on his first day wearing a pink shirt.
After initially not doing anything, Travis said the incident sat with him so he and his friend thought of a way to show support for the young victim of the bullies. They went out and bought 75 pink shirts that they distributed to other students. They thought they would be doing well if they could get 100 kids to wear pink. But, after announcing their plan on Facebook, they discovered, to their amazement, 850 of the school’s 1,000 students showed up wearing pink. They all did so to send a message that bullying was not acceptable.
Within a week, similar anti-bullying events were happening at other schools in Nova Scotia. Within another week they had spread to schools across the country. And in a month the pink protest had spread to other countries.
Now in 30 countries, Pink Shirt Day is the largest anti-bullying initiative of its kind in the world.
And, as a result, Price has become a sought after speaker, even addressing a United Nations committee.
But, as he told the students at RSS, he knows what it’s like to be bullied. He was a victim for years when he was in school.
But that can change, he said.
(While he told his audience his personal story of being bullied and about the person who intervened to help him, he asked the media not to report those details, saying it was his story to tell.)
“When we make the right choice and we stand up against (bullying) that is when we make a difference in our communities and our schools and that’s when bullying will start to go away,” he told his audience, a packed gym at RSS.The crowd was made up not only of RSS students, but also students from nearby Rutland Middle and Spring Valley Middle schools.
Price noted that when he was in school he did not feel he had anyone to talk to about what was happening to him. But RSS has a special student team, called Beyond The Hurt, trained by the RED Cross to talk to students, help them and raise awareness about anti-bullying initiatives.
Grade 12 RSS student Ashley Robson is on the Beyond The Hurt team and said while she feels the bullying problem is not as bad at RSS as it is at other schools, it remains an issue for all students, especially in these days of the Internet.
Cyber bullying is an issue that is growing and needs to be addressed, she said.
Robson said she found Price’s talk inspirational and agreed raising awareness and letting students who have been bullied know there is someone they can talk to, is important.
Alyssa Cavill, a Grade 9 student on the Beyond The Hurt team agreed. She said she has found the problem of bullying more prevalent at the middle school level, so it is important the team talk to students at those schools as well.
Price said he was happy to see the student team at RSS, noting anything that can help raise awareness of the issue and help victims, as well as helping bullies stop their behaviour, is a good thing.
And he assured students concerned about being labeled a “snitch” or a “rat” that they are no such thing for telling a teacher someone is being bullied.
“If you saw a house on fire, you would call the fire department,” he said. “Well, this is (the bullied child’s) emergency. They need help.”
He said he hopes the work he does, and what comes out of Pink Shirt Day puts everyone on a “path to a better tomorrow.”
Today, Feb. 22, is Pink Shirt Day in B.C.