Opinion

Clark: Take a stand against bullying

Sometimes, old sayings are wrong.

And when a child is crying because one of their classmates is picking on them, you see just how hollow and wrong this old saying is: “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Of course, bullying isn’t a new issue. But thankfully, our attitudes towards it have started to change. For far too long, people looked the other way.

For me, this issue crystallized in 2006, when I was hosting a radio show. A woman phoned in and said something to the effect that bullying just happens, it builds character, and kids should get used to it. This wasn’t a particularly controversial statement at the time.

I received an email from a woman named Brenda, who wanted to tell her story about bullying – from the bully’s side.

She came on the show, and spent an hour talking about the thing she did: locking two little girls in the back of a car, telling them they would never see their parents again. She beat a girl so badly she broke her clavicle – and that happened in the schoolyard.

Brenda was open and honest about the effects this had on her victims, but also on her. Knowing she harmed so many people, her life spiralled into drug and alcohol addiction.

When she left the studio, she looked me in the eye and said “you have a bully pulpit here on the radio – you have to use it. Do something about bullying.”

I had no idea what to do.

A few months later, I came across a story about two young men in Nova Scotia who did. David Shepherd and Travis Price saw a student being bullied. And why? Because he was wearing a pink shirt.

So David and Travis figured they wouldn’t let this kid stand alone, and bought more and more pink shirts for everyone to wear and stand together against bullies.

Inspired, I organized a pink shirt day with the radio station – and was blown away by the response. We sold out of shirts in weeks. Thousands of kids, bus drivers, police officers – all standing together against bullying.

Eight years later, Pink Shirt Day has done a great job raising awareness. At schools, hockey games, and in front of the legislature in Victoria, flash mobs in pink shirts have made a big impression.

In 2012, the provincial government launched the ERASE Anti-Bullying Strategy eliminate bullying from our schools, and we’re making progress every day.

But as we learned with Amanda Todd, sometimes we need to more. We can’t be bystanders anymore. We can’t just look the other way.

We have to help make it better.

So on this Pink Shirt Day, please continue to stand up to bullying. But don’t forget – we also need to stand up to bullies themselves.

To find out how you can help, visit PinkShirtDay.ca.

Premier Christy Clark is the MLA for Westside-Kelowna.

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