Te­gan’s stand against bul­ly­ing

Hamilton Press - - FRONT PAGE - PHILLIPA YALDEN

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.

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