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

Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
69 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The total number of cases in the region is now at 9,840 since the pandemic began

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Interior Health hospitals not strained by rising COVID case counts

While provincial hospitalizations rise, health care systems in the B.C. Interior remain robust, say officials

BC CDC data showing the geographic distribution of COVID cases in the province. (BC CDC photo)
One new case of COVID-19 in Golden

Cases continue to surge in surrounding areas

The Golden Golf Club will open for a new season on the links beginning April 24. (Claire Palmer photo)
Golden Golf club eyes April 24 start

The golf course is supporting local businesses with the driving range and mini-golf

An Interior Health nurse administers Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
105 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

Just over 8,000 new vaccine doses administered in the region for a total of 158,000 to date

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The plane blasted through an airport fence and down a hill, before stopping before a cement barrier on Highway 5A, right in front of a school bus. Photo submitted.
Student pilot crashes plane onto Highway 5A in Princeton

Aircraft hit pavement right in front of school bus

Vernon Fire Rescue Services responded to a truck fire on Dallas Road in Vernon April 15, 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Vernon Morning Star)
WATCH: Vernon firefighters quick to douse fully involved truck fire

The fire was near multiple structures and spreading along the ground upon crews’ arrival

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

Fire crews tend to a collision that is causing severe traffic delays on the William R. Bennett bridge headed east into Kelowna. (Aaron Hemens - Kelowna Capital News)
7 vehicle collision on WR Bennett Bridge under investigation

The collision backed up traffic on the William R. Bennett bridge for much of the morning

Kelowna company celebrates milestone of producing 46 million masks in under a year.
46 million masks and counting: Kelowna company reaches 1 year milstone

In under a year, Breathe Manufacturing Ltd. in Kelowna has hit production of 46 million masks for front-line workers

The organizer of a Kelowna protest against COVID-19 restrictions was fined by the RCMP for the third time Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. (File photo)
Kelowna RCMP investigating hit and run involving 11-year-old

Police said the boy suffered minor injuries

Most Read