Today is Pink Shirt Day here in Canada. The idea is that everyone wears a pink T-shirt to school, to bring an awareness to bullying. It was initiated four years ago, after a student in Nova Scotia was bullied for wearing a pink shirt on the first day of school, and now the initiative has taken off across the country -- and none too soon. Bullying has become completely out of hand, especially with all the various social networking sites available to kids. Recently there was a school here in Vancouver where a group of kids had a Facebook contest for the "ugliest girl in school". The loser (winner?) of the contest not only dropped out of that school, she dropped out of school altogether. She is 13 years old. Middle school girls are notoriously the worst bullies of all, and every school has more than its share of "mean girls".
A few years ago a 14 year-old girl in Victoria was bullied to death by her tormenter. The young lady in this picture boasted to her friends that she put her foot on another girl's head, as she lay immersed in the water, and smoked a cigarette until her victim no longer moved. The young lady ended up in jail. If the situation had been dealt with quickly, two young lives would have been spared. I felt very sad for both of the girls; they were both victims.
When I was in school -- back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth -- bullying was not tolerated, either by teachers or by parents. Teachers had the power to deal with bullies swiftly and efficiently. Often just the possibility of such a consequence was enough to stop the bullies in their tracks. Now there are no repercussions for bullying, and it is escalating.
No one wants to deal with bullies, and that includes workplace bullies. Our organization has an initiative called "Respectful Workplace", but there really is no recourse for someone who is being bullied. We had a manager who was a bully, and I nicknamed her "The Black Widow Spider". She always wore black, and she sat in her office with the lights off, waiting to pounce on her next victim. Nothing was done about her, and when she retired it was as if a black cloud had lifted from the building.
Bullying is not acceptable in any form, and the folks in authority in schools and workplaces need to stop being intimidated by bullies. Wear your pink T-shirt today, and stop the bullying...