Ashley Sanipass, a mom from Indian Island First Nation, said her son’s school took action after he was bullied over his long hair, which has cultural significance for the Mi’kmaq.family. Sanipass is seen her with her son Clover and daughter Bee. (Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)

Ashley Sanipass, a mom from Indian Island First Nation, said her son’s school took action after he was bullied over his long hair, which has cultural significance for the Mi’kmaq.family. Sanipass is seen her with her son Clover and daughter Bee. (Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)

‘He liked his hair again’: Pink Shirt Day turns spotlight on school bullying

School aids Indigenous mom after son bullied for long hair

By Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal

Pink Shirt Day in support of anti-bullying efforts in schools will be marked Wednesday by schools and community groups across the province.

Ashley Sanipass, a mom from Indian Island First Nation, said her son was being bullied, but praises his school for taking action that led to a positive outcome.

Sanipass said two months ago, her seven-year-old son, Clover, told her a student at school was referring to him as a girl and making fun of him because of his hair.

“My son has long hair past his shoulders,” she said.

The family is Mi’kmaq. Hair is important to many Indigenous people and there are many teachings about it, Sanipass said. “My mother had always talked to me about how my hair was my strength,” she said.

Some Indigenous people follow the practice that you may braid a partner or family member’s hair, but you do not touch a stranger’s hair or vice versa, she said, noting she was taught the importance of putting “good intentions” into her hair.

Sanipass, who also wears her hair long, said she was bullied herself as a child, with children at school sometimes twisting it like a doorknob when she wore it up or flicking her braid when she wore it down.

When her son told her about the bullying, Sanipass said she asked him if he wanted to cut his hair. He said no.

So she turned to the school for help to stop the bullying.

Sanipass said she contacted Rexton Elementary School about the incident, speaking to a secretary about how long hair was part of Clover’s culture and the ways in which bullying was occurring. Everything was written down, she said, and given in a note to her son’s teacher.

The next day the issue was resolved after the teacher talked with the perpetrator, and made Clover feel his hair was something to be admired and celebrated. The teacher sent a note home letting her know the situation had been dealt with, Sanipass said.

“I noticed a change in Clover right away,” she said. “He said he liked his hair again.”

The Pink Shirt Day initiative began in the Maritimes, but is now held in schools across Canada.

In 2007, at a high school in Cambridge, Nova Scotia, a student was bullied for wearing a pink shirt, said Marie-Michele Vienneau, recruitment and communication agent for the Francophone Sud school district in a news release. The next day, the student’s classmates arrived at school wearing pink shirts as a show of solidarity.

This week, Francophone South is one of many school boards participating. In a memo sent out this week, the district encouraged everyone at the schools to wear pink on Wednesday, also noting it is just one of many anti-bullying actions. Another initiative, Harmony for Students, which aims to equip staff to better manage bullying and students to assert themselves, halved the self-reported rates of bullying by students between 2017 and 2019.

Anglophone East School District is also encouraging students and staff to wear pink and take a look at the Pink Shirt Day resources on the website, said Stephanie Patterson, director of communications for Anglophone East. She said the district continues to follow Policy 703, the province’s policy for a safe and positive learning and working environment.

Policy 703 is intended to provide inclusive, safe and respectful environments, identifies who is responsible for addressing issues, sets standards of behaviour and discipline and includes the Provincial Student Code of Conduct, said Tara Chislett, a spokesperson for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, adding that work reviewing anti-bullying practices is ongoing.

Sanipass said her son’s school will be participating in Pink Shirt Day.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Pink Shirt Day

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Salvation Army Capt. Michael Ramsay, right, receives a donation of $5,000 on behalf of the Bread of Life from RBC Foundation members Mena Rai, left, with nephews Makhan and Kartar, RBC’s Eric Matheson, Rai’s nieces Veera and Isha, and RBC manager Leona Horvath. Rai’s nieces and nephews often participate in RBC fundraising initiatives. SONJA DRINKWATER/Special to the AV News)
RBC in Port Alberni raises funds for homelessness

Bread of Life receives $5,000 donation

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

Volunteers from the Rotary Club of Port Alberni collect garbage in the Scotiabank parking lot on Saturday, April 17 as part of a Community Clean Up. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Port Alberni’s community street clean-up a success

Alberni Aquarium and Stewardship Centre plans ocean clean-up for April 24 and 25

Wounded Warriors runners run along Beaver Creek Road towards the Beaver Creek Volunteer Fire Department hall. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Port Alberni’s Wounded Warriors stage solo run

Vancouver Island-wide event was cancelled, but Maria Marciano and Dave Nesbitt ran anyway

Wickaninnish (Clifford Atleo) plays the drum while singing the Nuu-chah-nulth song on the court steps in Vancouver In a picture from April 2018. Photo credit, Melody Charlie.
Five Nuu-chah-nulth Nations celebrate legal victory in fishing dispute

Ha’oom Fisheries Society and T’aaq-wiihak Fisheries announce “major legal victory”

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read