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

Fishers prefer landscapes with large areas of connected forest, said the Forest Practices Board. (Loney Dickson photo)
Logging continuing to impact fisher habitat in B.C.

Forest Practices Board concludes investigation near Bobtail Mountain Provincial Park

Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes shared this photo of the binders and binders of letters and paperwork she’s received on area roads in the past few years. (Submitted photo)
Cariboo MLAs call on province to fix region’s roads

Minister Rob Fleming said more resources were on the way to the region

Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty advises Conservative leader Erin O’Toole on mental health and wellness. (House of Commons Photography)
Cariboo-Prince George MP calling for 1-year deadline to establish 3-digit suicide hotline

Todd Doherty’s motion calling for 9-8-8 as a national hotline passed unanimously in December

A fundraiser has been launched for local senior Mary Klassen after a fire destroyed her mobile home Friday, May 7. (Aman Parhar photo)
Fire destroys home at C.J.’s Trailer Park

Two other structures damaged by heat exposure

Vanderhoof Chamber of Commerce moved to its new location on Stewart Street West earlier this month. (Michelle Roberge photo)
New space for Vanderhoof Chamber of Commerce

Chamber moves to West Stewart Street

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Most Read