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A school day in pink

In 2007, two students in Nova Scotia decided to hand out pink shirts to protest bullying after a Grade 9 student was harassed and threatened for wearing pink.
Dean Macinnis, principal of Sir John High School said Pink Shirt Day has been happening in his school all 12 years he has been there. Kaicheng Xin/NNSL photo

In 2007, two students in Nova Scotia decided to hand out pink shirts to protest bullying after a Grade 9 student was harassed and threatened for wearing pink.

Since then, the activity has kept growing and is now a become a national event on the last Wednesday every February, including here in Yellowknife.

Dean MacInnis, principal of Sir John Franklin High School said Pink Shirt Day has been celebrated in his school at least for the 12 years he has been there, even with Covid-19 closing the school.

“We’ll have staff wearing them and kids wearing them (today) to participate,” Macinnis said, adding that the day involves a lot of chat in the class to let the kids know the purpose and story behind the movement. “It’s not just one day, but we are doing a lot of other things during the whole school year that promotes people to be individuals, to find your role in the school and that you will feel more comfortable being here.”

A group photo session is also planned with staff taking pictures of people wearing pink shirts during class time. There will also be discussions during classes, and MacInnis said that because everybody is wearing the same colour, there will be a calm atmosphere and that creates a bit of happiness.

Macinnis said he hasn’t encountered any situation where a kid didn’t want to participate, but he said even if there is one, the school would respect the choice the student makes.

“People might not agree with you, but at least they will understand where you come from,” he added, “The kids need to learn how to articulate — there will be a situation that as a young adult, you are going to need to navigate that.”

St. Pat’s High School decided to hold the event yesterday due to today being Ash Wednesday, a charity that brings youth together and builds capacity for mental health activities, has partnered with St. Pat’s.

Kelly Janes, staff lead for the school’s Jack chapter, said that the plan was to invite people to come and take a picture with them in a pink shirt, give them a copy of the photo and have a conversation about anti-bullying.

Students and staff were encouraged to wear pink shirts to school on Tuesday, and there were also pink shirts to distribute to the students and staff in case they didn’t have one.

Janes also said a branded shirt could be purchased as a souvenir for $20.

“I also have the branded shirt and that was when I was in Grade 5,” said Isha Jaj, co-president Interact club in St. Pat’s, who’s now in Grade 11.

It still fits, she added.

She also said she appreciated the support from the community, which included help from Buffalo Airways, who waived the shipping fees to help get the branded shirts to the city.

From left, Kelly Janes, staff lead with the local Jack chapter; Hannah Janes, student lead with Jack; Stella Fairman, a member of Interact Club; Isha Jaj, co-president the St. Pat’s Interact club; and Christina Silzer, the staff advisor for Interact, don pink shirts and hold a picture frame to mark participation in Pink Shirt Day. Kaicheng Xin/NNSL photo
Goliath is a service dog for one of the classroom assistants, Jane Mooney. He is also a trained therapy dog and often supports students at St. Pat’s and Weledeh. He is an honourary member of the Jack chapter. Photo courtesy Kelly Janes.