The above Twitter post is the general feeling in our community of parents of disabled children and youth about Pink Shirt Day. We recognize that some students and educators go to a lot of effort to create a more genuine recognition of the day and we don’t want to minimize that.
The concern about the performative nature of Pink Shirt Day is well described by Bryan Gidinski in this article:
The day started because of an incident of homophobia and yet that is not described on the official Pink Shirt Day website, and it’s not frequently discussed at school events and activities on this day.
Similarly, Jillian Enright, wrote more specifically about students with disabilities, noting that February is also Inclusive Education Month:
Children and youth with disabilities report being bullied at much higher rates than the rest of the population.
Children and youth with ADHD are bullied up to 4 times more often than their peers, and children with specific language impairment (SLI) are up to 3 times more at risk for victimization In schools, just as two examples.
Bullying of disabled children and youth correlates to concerns around depression, self esteem, impacts peer relationships, and in fact is something that happens not only to children and youth but often continues throughout a person’s life.
Those with other intersecting, systemically oppressed identities are even more significantly impacted. This is never part of the conversation about bullying prevention and mitigation.
Even the hashtag for this day is all lower case, which comes out as one run-on word when using a screen reader. Like this: #pinkshirtday2023 Which is ableist but so many people still aren’t aware of the importance of this and text descriptions of images on social media.
Bullying itself is a minimizing term. Usually it’s based in oppression of some kind. Homophobia (the origin of the day), transphobia, racism, ableism, xenophobia, etc. Attacking someone with words or actions because they’re different. Excluding them.
Today’s #PinkShirtDay theme is Be Kind and Lift Each Other Up. There’s nothing wrong with this and it’s not doing any harm to talk about kindness. But does it address the real issue?
We’d love to see Pink Shirt Day funds, and Ministry of Education and Child Care funds, go towards educator training and curriculum resources around anti-oppression, much like the #SOGI123 resources that have had such a positive impact.
Also essential is a revamp of the Erase site to address the lack of content on disability and ableism. BC People First and BCEdAccess met with the Ministry of Education and ChildCare about this issue in 2020. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/erase…
We really need to take things a step further than wearing a pink shirt for the day. What can we do together to authentically address anti-oppression in schools?
Suggestions we made to the Ministry in this letter:
1. Updating the Erase website to more specifically address issues of bullying and safety with regard to students with disabilities
2. Creating and implementing disability-specific curriculum resources for schools.
3. Creating guidelines, similar to those for seclusion and restraint, to guide districts to have a clear anti-bullying policy and procedure.
We would love to host a real discussion on this topic and invite you to reach out to email@example.com if you’d like to take part. Tell us about schools who do a great job addressing these issues, too!
Do use this tool if you are a student experiencing harassment and/or violence at school. Parents and guardians, you can help your child or youth fill it out. Families have told us it can help. https://erasereportit.gov.bc.ca #bced #PinkShirtDay
At the end of the day, equitable access to education is a human right, not just a kind thing to do. Discrimination and oppression routinely prevent children and youth from accessing that right.
Canada has signed on to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, and BC has obligations to fulfill under those Conventions with regard to children and youth in our province.
Real action is urgently needed to uphold the rights of these children and youth to be safe and free from harassment and physical harm. We must do better.