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By Banning Freshman From Wearing Pink, Is This Principal Preemptively Fighting Bullying? Or Overreacting?

Massachusetts’ Whitman Hanson Regional High School, about 25 miles south of Boston and home to 1,250 students, has banned the custom of freshman wearing pink shirts at the annual Thanksgiving football game — where seniors wear black, juniors red, sophomores white — because, according to new Principal Jeffrey Szymaniak, the color encourages excessive teasing. Instead, he wants all students wearing Whitman Hanson’s school colors (red and black). Okay, but can they read “marriage is so gay”?

Is this a fair attempt to crack down on bullying, especially of the anti-gay variety? Or a silly crackdown on a school tradition? (Students who show up wearing pink won’t be allowed at the pep rally.) It’s an interesting departure from Coy Shepard’s football coach trying to keep him from choosing to wear pink.

Szymaniak says he hasn’t received any complaints from students about bullying, but sees this as a proactive approach to killing a problem before it starts. Which sounds reasonable! And while my first instinct is to say “Students should be able to wear whatever colors they want,” I can’t help but think of the closeted gay boy — or the one who is still coming to terms with his sexuality — who just entered high school and is trying his damnedest not to “set off red flags” and is then faced with the decision to fall in line and wear pink (thus subjecting himself to upperclassmen teasing him), or pretend he’s too macho for the girl color (and draw attention to himself for not going along with the crowd).

Of course if you want to fight bullying with fashion choices, you should call up Sabrina Schlichting and put on one of her blue tees.

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  • DR

    This is ridiculous and overly sensitive. It’s a school tradition, let the kids have fun. What is accomplished by dismissing the tradition and taking away the fun besides looking silly?

  • ChicagoJimmy

    I think hazing is a form of sanctioned bullying and that is what this sounds like. I like the decision to end this obvious hazing ritual.

  • Justaboringusername

    Doesn’t this just encourage the stereotype that pink is a “gay” color? I don’t think this is helping anyone but maybe makes it a little harder for billy to wear a pink shirt the day after

  • Aaron in Honolulu

    The principal is using fear as a reason to ban a color from a prep rally, a freaking color. He’s telling his students that if you are a boy, you should avoid the color pink because you will most definitely get bullied. This will also make it ok for bullies to pick on people who wear pink because it’s assumed by their adult figures that this will happen anyway. Just another passive aggressive way of dealing with a bigger issue.

  • alex

    I agree that banning pink is a somewhat suspect attempt to curb teasing and bullying. That said, I think that Principal Szymaniak deserves come credit for making an effort. Thousands of principals turn a blind eye; at least this guy is trying.

  • Red Meat

    I think the problem is that FRESHMAN are the ones that have to wear pink. I don’t know how every high school is but in the one I was in freshman got picked on the most for anything. The fact they have to wear a “sissy” color only reinforces the teasing.

    It would have been appropriate if the student body (I’m sure) who created the class colors a long time ago; who thought it would be funny, were stopped.

    They should just switch the colors around and make seniors pink because they are the oldest and set the example.

  • B

    What if a male student wears pink on a day to honor a friend/family member who has/had or died from breast cancer? Is that sissy or gay?

  • peteNsfo

    At its origin, the freshman wearing pink probably was supposed to be a dig… so the principal is probably right, but… whaddaya gonna do?

    No good deed goes unpunished.

  • Snownova

    Sigh, Americans are so behind on fashion. Here in Europe it’s been cool for straight guys to wear pink for years. There’s more hot straight guys in bright pink shirts on the streets then there are gay guys.

    I actually had a discussion with my aunt before my wedding over my refusal to wear a pink tie or shirt (I personally loathe the color,for completely non-gay related reasons), and she kept telling me how my uncle (her straight, 65 year old husband), always wears pink.

  • jason

    This principal is way out of line. If he’s so concerned about teasing, why doesn’t he attack the teasers? It seems he’s more interested in curtailing the victim than the perpetrator.

    I would hate to have an idiot principal like this at my school.

  • B

    @Red Meat: THANK YOU for that story link. (Somehow I missed it.) Interesting how colors are causing controversy lately. In the 60s/70s wasn’t it the length of someone’s hair?!

  • Kelehe

    @DR: Ahh yes, the fallacy of tradition.

  • Michael

    Me thinks this principal either has way too much time on his hands, or is simply not a fan of the color pink. Besides, who hasn’t turned their white stuff into pink stuff by forgetting to sort out their their red stuff in the washer.

  • DR


    What’s wrong with tradition?

    There are not, according to the reports, any incidents of genuine harassment of anyone who is wearing pink aside from the standard nonsense freshmen probably get just for being freshmen. Unless they’re being physically assaulted or in some way truly harmed, this is nothing to get upset over.

    This is a knee-jerk reaction to real harassment happening in other places, and a school district trashing a perfectly fine tradition just to make itself look “progressive” and “anti-bullying” when the reality is that there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of any real bullying going on which the school can point to.

    There is a difference between protecting them from real and genuine threats and coddling them because upperclassmen might pick on them for the day in what is probably a silly and harmless manner just for being freshmen.

  • sokablamo

    You guys know that making all the Freshmen wear pink was a way to haze them, that’s how high school works. I’m sure that the principal understands how this history of making the new kids all wear a girly/faggy color has become too much. Knowing the practical side of being a principal, I think his response to change the class colors day into a school colors day was the best way to solve the problem.

  • B

    No. 16 · sokablamo wrote, “You guys know that making all the Freshmen wear pink was a way to haze them, that’s how high school works.”

    … don’t recall any similar requirements when I was that young, but I do have a pink tee shirt now, and it usually gets favorable
    comments due to the graphics.

    Note: someone else is using B as a name too – the previous comments on this thread from ‘B’ were from another person.

  • Kev C

    In order to prevent gay bullying, we need to prevent gays. Anything remotely gayish, like pink shirts, should be nipped in the bud. The suspicious students will be rounded up and put into detention areas, for their own protection.

    Yours truly
    Principal Jeffrey Szymaniak

  • Kieran

    In order to demonstrate our desire to discourage any anti-semitic taunts here at our school, I am hereby forbidding the wearing of any yarmulkes or star of davids in and around school property as these may promote anti-semitic taunting.

    Yours truly,
    Principal Szymaniac

  • Minako Aino

    Pink is just a colour. due to the fact that people dispicted Pink for Girls & Blue for Boys. doesnt mean you cant wear it. If gay people didnt use it all the time then mabey nobody would have cared, but due to the fact it is dispicted as being a colour for girls i suppose it is well umm gay…

    And anyway who wants to look like a Piglet/porker/pig/ham head :o
    Go for light pink thats cute….. and peach is EVEN BETTER!

  • Montemalone

    Ok. Everybody knows pink is so gay. Of course, they’ll be allowed to wear coral, fuchsia, orchid, lavender…

  • Sioraiocht

    It’s an effing colour, ffs.

  • Brentinpdx

    How effing stupid!!

  • kylle

    “By Banning Freshman From Wearing Pink, Is This Principal Preemptively Fighting Bullying? Or Overreacting?”

    imagine this headline:
    By Banning Freshman From Being Black, Is This Principal Preemptively Fighting Racism? Or Overreacting?

    Clearly, the principal is attacking the wrong side of the problem.

  • DDPL

    @B: My question: Did he also ban girls from wearing blue and wearing comfortable shoes?

    Cause if it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, it must be a d*ke– and to protect it, we teach it to swim.

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