Tegan’s stand against bullying
Tegan Way knows a bully when she sees one.
She’s heard harsh words uttered in the playground of her Hamilton primary school and watched jabs be exchanged at the local BMX track.
If you ask the sassy six year old what bullying is, she’ll tell you that ‘‘words can hurt’’.
‘‘When people bully it makes people sad...it can make them die,’’ she says, dressed head to toe in pink, with the words ‘Stand-up, Speak-Up’ emblazoned across her t-shirt.
The Forest Lake Primary School pupil is on a crusade to stomp out bullying and is challenging the Hamilton community to join her this May 18.
New Zealand rated second highest for bullying among 15-year-olds in an international survey of 51 countries last year.
Stopping bullying ‘‘will make the world a better place’’, she says.
Tegan was three months into her first school year when she decided she wanted to instigate change.
A Pippins class had taught the then-five year old what bullying was, and how the annual Pink Shirt Day could raise awareness.
It’s ok for anyone to wear pink, she says, even boys.
‘‘I learned that one day a boy wanted to go to school wearing a pink shirt. When he got to school his friends bullied him.’’
That night she went home to her mother Celeste, a kindergarten teacher, and asked how she could hold a pink shirt day at school.
Together they wrote a letter to the principal and arranged a meeting to talk through the options.
The following week she found herself on the school stage telling pupils how to stop a bully.
Since then Tegan has spent months strategising on how she can ‘‘step it up’’ this year.
She’s enlisted family members to sew together 21 giant pink t-shirts made from donated and dyed sheets. One will be given to each classroom at her school for pupils and teachers to sign an anti-bullying message.
Weekends have been spent at her grandfather’s home in Te Kauwhata, picking, bagging and selling persimmons to help raise funds.
Tegan’s even enlisted the help of Waikato police.
Constable Pete Van’t Wout said Tegan’s efforts had inspired many of the city’s force.
Forty officers from the district’s frontline and road policing staff will wear pink vests on the day.
‘‘We were blown away. Schools typically get behind it, but it’s mostly at a senior level from teachers, not the students, so to see this is remarkable.’’
Forest Lake Primary school pupil Tegan Way is taking a stand against bullying.