By Shelden Rogers
BELLEVILLE – Ali Chesher can remember being bullied four years ago, wishing there were something like Pink Shirt Day .
The halls of Bayside Secondary School  were infested with pink last Wednesday as the school recognized anti-bullying efforts.
Pink Shirt Day started in 2007 when a group of teenagers in Nova Scotia organized a protest in their high school, all wearing pink in support of a Grade 9 boy who had been bullied for wearing the colour.
Bullying “is a major thing in the school for sure. I see it every day and I think it affects everyone, so I think it’s a big deal,” said Chesher.
But in the years she has been attending Bayside, she has noticed a change.
“It’s so cool to see how far our school has come over the years. When I was in Grade 9, bullying was really big back then. And now it’s just like everyone is aware of what’s going on.”
Bayside and other schools in the Quinte area started Pink Shirt Day a few years ago. It began with students and teachers at a couple of schools selling and wearing pink shirts. Now nearly every school in the area participates.
Bayside’s Pink Shirt Day organizer, teacher Sarah Boggett, says she is impressed with how far the day has come within the last couple of years.
“More kids are involved. You also see a lot of different shirts, and more kids are aware of what it is. Like if you talk about pink shirts, students know what it’s for and know that it’s against bullying,” said Boggett.
But it’s not just about the clothing, she said.
“A lot of kids are talking about it, talking about anti-bullying.”
When they do talk about it, a lot of time they are sharing personal experiences, she said.
“Students are a lot more open to talking about times they have been bullied. They are more aware and are able to talk to us about it.”
Grade 11 student Gemma Wray said she is noticing the benefits of having Pink Shirt Day.
“I think it’s really important because it shows that people care and that other people understand and they aren’t alone,” she said. “I feel like it brings the school closer together almost.”
Bayside teacher Dan Tripp said that even the students who weren’t wearing pink were supporting the issue.
“There were some kids who came in this morning who were like ‘Ah, I forgot to wear my pink shirt,’ so they wanted to support it. I would say half of my period one class were wearing pink and the other half were frustrated that they forgot to wear pink,” said Tripp.
He knows that the event alone won’t eliminate bullying, he said, but feels it will have some impact throughout the school.
“There is always bullying. I don’t think there is a way to fully get rid of it. There are always going to be those individuals out there who feel the need to bully. But hopefully this sends a message. And maybe those people will think twice about what they are doing.”
Chesher said she is noticing a lot of people recognizing the issue.
“Everyone is starting to realize that it is a problem and that it needs to be addressed.”