The man who started the Pink Shirt movement in 2007 will be in Oak Bay for B.C.’s Pink Shirt Day.
Travis Price will speak to the students at Monterey middle school on Wednesday morning before speaking at the Legislature after lunch.
It was Price and high school chum David Shepherd who inadvertently started the anti-bullying movement in the first week of school in Cambridge, N.S. When Price and Shepherd heard a student was mocked for wearing a pink shirt, they responded with a pink shirt protest. They purchased and distributed about 50 pink shirts for classmates to wear in response to the pink-shirt shaming incident a day before.
The Pink Shirt anti-bullying movement was born. Price visits Greater Victoria for the fourth year in a row this week, part of an 18-school tour in the Lower Mainland and Island. From Feb. 24 to 26 he’ll hit Victoria, Sooke, Langford, Royston and Cumberland, and also hopes to take in more of Vancouver Island that he’s missed in the past.
At each school, Price tells his own story of when he was bullied, and too often, and in too many schools, the response is that students will quietly wait to approach him, often opening up for the first time about their own experience.
“Every year we set it up to reach 10,000 kids,” Price said. “That’s a lot of outreach for two weeks, it’s a phenomenal response.”
Pink Shirt Day has become an important time at Monterey each year, said principal Ken Andrews.
“We draw particular attention to the fabric of our school culture and how we interact with one another on a day-to-day basis, focusing on what we can do not only to prevent bullying, but to treat one another with genuine kindness,” Andrews said.
This year, the schools is feeling fortunate to have Price and will there will be a good portion of the school population in pink.
“… We desire an ever-more inclusive community that honours diversity and respect for one another, and abhors bullying!,” Andrews said.
Price’s speaking tour seemingly runs all year. It’s a full-time job, attending Pink Shirt Day and similar anti-bullying events from province to province. His 2020 tour is organized by the national charity WITS (Walk away, Ignore, Talk about it, Seek help), which was founded and continues to be based out of Victoria.
The anti-bullying movement continues to grow and the response is multi-layered, Price said.
For one, there’s always another group of children who are ready to understand the message that they can make a difference and that they have the right to live free of bullying, Price said.
“There are kids who want to come up afterward ask questions they didn’t want to ask in front of the group,” Price said. “They just want that opportunity to have a conversation with someone they trust and I’m lucky enough that I’m someone they trust.”
In those cases, if it’s the student’s first time opening up, Price will report the situation back to the appropriate contacts.
The other response that continues to move him is from the teachers.
“It’s exciting for me to see a teachers’ excitement when I visit,” Price said. “You can see they’ve been [telling the story] of Pink Shirt Day.”