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

In a feature article published April 10, 2021 in The Times of London, ‘headlined British Columbia has what it takes to rival Napa Valley,’ the valley is praised extensively for its natural beauty and wine. (File photo)
From the U.K. with love: Okanagan wine, scenery receives international praise

The Times of London newspaper recently featured the valley in a wine and travel piece

FILE — In this March 31, 2021 file photo, a nurse fills a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center, in Uniondale, N.Y. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating clots in six women in the days after vaccination, in combination with reduced platelet counts. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
72 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases in the region to 9,666 since the pandemic began

Fire rips through shop in small South Okanagan town

The building was destroyed despite community efforts to fight the fire

The Save Sickle Point Committee, a grassroots community group, has teamed up Penticton’s Tempest Theatre and Film Society to release short film on Sickle Point. (Contributed)
WATCH: Conservationists release short film on saving ‘precious’ Sickle Point

Sickle Point, the last intact wetland near Skaha Lake, is facing the prospect of development

The municipality of Summerland will develop a code of ethics for municipal staff. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Summerland to develop code of ethics for staff

One-page values document will serve to guide municipal staff

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

Marylou Jensen. (Contributed)
Kelowna RCMP searching for missing senior

Marylou Jensen left her Grenfell Road home on foot at 5 p.m.

A dumpster was on fire behind a residential complex in downtown Penticton Tuesday afternoon. (Brennan Phillips Western News)
Dumpster fire extinguished in downtown Penticton

There has been a string of dumpster fires lately

Skogie’s Express Tunnel Wash on Anderson Way in Vernon. (Submitted photo)
Lawsuit dismissed after vehicle damaged while inside Okanagan car wash

Civil Resolution Tribunal dismisses driver’s claim following a collision inside Skogie’s car wash in Vernon

The future of the Eagle Pass Lookout cabin is being discussed. (File photo)
Options presented for future of former Eagle Pass fire lookout in Shuswap

Stakeholders met in 2020 to discuss the restoration, or possible removal of the cabin

(Mayor Cindy Fortin - Peachland)
Peachland mayor declines early vaccination offer

Mayor Cindy Fortin said she wants seniors, immunocompromised individuals to get the shot first

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Conservation officers caught three men over fishing bull trout in Kinbasket Lake. (Facebook)
B.C. men fined $1.7K for overfishing near Revelstoke, Golden

The seized fish were donated to the Golden Food Bank

NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson in the outfit that got her sent home from school on Feb. 23, 2021. (Kamloops This Week photo)
Clothing that ‘detracts from learning process’ removed from SD73 student dress code

Policy change underway after student in knee-length dress, long-sleeve turtleneck sent home

Most Read