On Wednesday, Feb. 27, ACE students will be down at the Agassiz Library to share the importance of anti-bullying day.
They’ll be sporting pink shirts, and some may even be wearing pink shoes. They’ll be handing out pink cupcakes and painting designs on little kids’ faces.
The whole school will be down — principal Sandy Balascak, students, teachers and one person who’s a little less mobile than the rest: Anti-Bully Bob.
Bob usually spends his days propped up in a corner of the school. But on Pink Shirt Day, Bob will get to spend some time out in the town.
“We usually set Bob up with a pink shirt right in the middle so everyone can see him,” Clayton Richardson, 16, said. “Everyone likes Bob. They’re always interacting with him like he’s a real person.”
“He just helps represent the no bullying thing,” Richardson added, “because it’s easier to see Bob with a shirt on than a poster or shirt pinned on a wall.”
Bob first came to the alternate school many years ago as a way to spread the message of anti-bullying.
“Most of the students I had at that point had been bullied in other places,” Balascak said. “I thought it was important to take a look at that.”
In Bob’s first outing with the school, he took a walk through Kent Elementary as a way to spread the anti-bullying message.
At that time, Bob was little more than a garbage bag body and a paper mache head. But over the years, he’s matured into the well-painted, well-dressed man he is today.
“Over the years I’ve had staff that had, let’s just say better talents than I do in terms of crafts,” Balascak said.
Once Balascak found a wig, but it was “really kind of messed up,” she said.
“One of our students at the time, her mum was a hairdresser, so we actually have a picture of Bob getting a haircut with a cape on and everything.”
Bob is a key part of ACE’s school events, participating in parades, visiting open houses at the Legion and attending graduation every year. He scares visitors at the school’s haunted house in October, and once attended a school board meeting.
(He doesn’t normally attend the school barbecues, because “his feet fall off, so he’s a little delicate,” Balascak said.)
He’s also confused some school visitors.
“The way we had him standing up, people who hadn’t been to the school before would usually think he was real,” Balascak said. “We even had the odd visitor start a conversation with him before they realized he was not going to talk back.”
But for all the fun that Bob brings, his real meaning is something more serious.
“He can be a lot of fun. But at the end of the day, the purpose behind him as a more serious message about feeling safe in your school,” Balascak said.
For Balascak, Pink Shirt Day shouldn’t just be one day, it needs to be something that’s present in schools all the time.
“We need to create a culture of acceptance in schools,” she said.
“It’s accepting the way people dress, accepting the way people are … Bob is the root of our culture of acceptance.
“He was the first step in it anyway,” she said, correcting herself.
“He was what launched that.”