When a 9-year-old boy proudly wore a pink shirt to school, his classmates quickly started tormenting him and calling him a “sissy.” It was heartbreaking for his mom to hear that her son was afraid to go back to school, but she encouraged him to be strong and go anyway. When he walked into his classroom, however, he couldn’t believe his eyes.
William Gierke, a 9-year-old boy from Wisconsin, picked out a t-shirt that was close to his heart and showed his support for cancer sufferers to wear to school one day. The pink shirt, which had been purchased while attending a breast cancer charity, read “Tough Guys Wear Pink” across the front, and young William wore it to school with pride.
Sadly, his classmates at the Sheboygan Falls Elementary School weren’t impressed with the kind gesture or very positive about the sentiments behind it. Instead of applauding the boy’s support for cancer patients, William’s peers teased him and called him a “sissy” — all because the shirt was pink, the color often used in support of those with breast cancer.
A heartbroken William Gierke left school in tears that day. Seeing her son so saddened, William’s mom, Tomi, was completely heartbroken to learn about the torment her son had received. Choking back tears, William didn’t want to go to school the next day, but his mom insisted that he return to class, even though she didn’t know how to help him deal with the bullying. Luckily, William’s teacher knew just what to do.
The attentive educator must have realized what had been going on the day before. As William walked into class, he couldn’t help but notice what his teacher had done. As the boy braced himself to be teased again, he saw Mr. David Winter, his teacher, wearing a pink shirt himself, showing solidarity with young William after seeing how the boy was bullied the day before because of his pink t-shirt. But, that’s not all.
Mr. Winter wore pink shirts to school every day for an entire week. The small gesture meant the world to William, and it sent a clear message to the other students, letting them know that bullying people for their clothing is never okay. “I feel more comfortable, I don’t let it bother me anymore,” a more confident William said after his teacher took a stand against the bullies.
Indeed, no child should be bullied for their clothes, especially when their choice of attire is made in support of others who are suffering. Often, these remarks go unnoticed, but this teacher paid attention and stood up for his student. These are the kinds of educators we need. Kids can be mean and cruel. They need discipline and guidance. Thankfully, Mr. Winter was up to the task, and he made his point in the best possible way.
Hopefully, some parents take note and set an example so this kind of ridiculous bullying becomes a thing of the past. Teach your kids that they can be anything they want to be, whether that’s the weird kid, the boy who wears pink, the nerd, the jock, the joker, or even the teacher’s pet — anything but the mean kid. Here’s an old and often forgotten lesson that needs to be taught again: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
As for William Gierke and his pink shirt: Kudos to this young man for showing his support of breast cancer victims. Cancer is a horrendous disease that devastates the patient and often their family as their loved one battles to survive. It seems to me, William’s peers could learn a thing or two from him about being kind and compassionate. Job well done, young man.