Travis Price never imagined the Pink Shirt anti-bullying movement would swell to its current levels.
Price was a Grade 12 student in rural Nova Scotia in 2007 when a Grade 9 student was taunted and bullied for wearing a pink shirt on the first day of school. The following day, Price, his close friend Dave Shepherd, and much of the student body wore pink to support their peer.
“We were in a school of 1,000 kids, and about 800 kids showed up that day wearing pink shirts,” said Price. “Teachers did, too.”
Since then, pink shirts have become a symbol in the fight against bullying. Walks are held in many communities, including Estevan. According to Price, more than six million people in 13 different countries participated in Pink Shirt Day activities this year. The recurring theme for all events is that bullying must end.
“It's truly incredible to see how far and wide this has spread in just seven years,” said Price. “But it's because of kids. Kids care so much, and this is the main issue that kids are being affected by. It's a great way for them to stand up and make a difference.”
Price spoke to students at Sacred Heart School/École Sacré Coeur on April 10 – the day after Estevan's Pink Shirt Day Walk. Sacred Heart was his final stop in a tour of the province.
He said he wants students to know that they can make a difference in their schools and in their communities.
“I want to try to show these kids that somebody who was bullied … has been able to do this, create this amazing movement, and get people to stand up and say no to bullying,” Price said.
Price first experienced bullying when he was in the first grade; the taunts and the teasing continued until he was in high school. It started with verbal attacks and name-calling, and eventually morphed into physical attacks and cyber-bullying. He believes his experiences enhance his credibility when speaking o children.
“I tell them a story about what happened to me, just to be real with them,” said Price.
He told the students that he used various outlets – video games, music and volleyball – to get through the tough times. And he cited many popular songs that contain references to bullying.
Attitudes towards bullying have changed, he said. Victims are more willing to say that they're being bullied, and speak to adults about it, because it is a serious issue. Young people are more willing to stick up for each other, and there are more programs in schools.
At the end of his speech, Price asked whether the students are willing to make Sacred Heart a bully-free school. After some consideration, they cheered in resounding fashion to say they won't tolerate bullying in their school any more.