Being a kid is tough. Oftentimes, you’re expected to be exactly like the people around you. Sadly, in the younger years, any type of differences can provoke bullying and negative attention. That’s what William Gierke, a fourth grader from Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, discovered back in 2015.
William was about to start fourth grade at Sheboygan Falls Elementary School and had chosen a pink t-shirt for the big event.
The graphic t-shirt was highlighter pink and bore the words ‘Tough Guys Wear Pink’ in big, blocky letters. Unfortunately for William, the choice didn’t go over well with his peers.
The other students in class bullied William for liking pink.
In an interview with TODAY’S TMJ4, William said the students asked him why he would wear such a shirt. “Because I like pink,” the honest fourth grader had stated. When the other kids in the class heard this response, they immediately started calling him a “sissy.”
The next day, William’s mother found him crying in his room, saying he didn’t want to go to school.
“I’ve never had an issue with him not wanting to go to school,” said his mother, Tomi Genske “It just struck me as really odd that Friday he sat there and was in tears.”
“As a parent that’s absolutely heartbreaking.”
Luckily, the boy soon found classroom solidarity in the most unexpected place.
To help William feel more comfortable, Mr. Winter, his teacher, decided to wear a pink shirt to school every day for an entire week.
“It started out as a way to help William feel safe at school,” Dan Winter later revealed.
“That’s what I want to be— is a way for him to feel that way and know he is supported.”
At one point during the week, William snapped a photo with his teacher and sent it to his Mom. When his mother saw what the man had done, she couldn’t believe her eyes. “I sat at my desk and was actually in tears,” she said.
Tomi took to Facebook to share the photo of William and Mr. Winter. She was hoping to honor the teacher in some way. Little did she realize, however, her post would soon be shared hundreds of times within only the first three hours.
“It wasn’t by any means meant to go viral,” Tomi later revealed. “I’m amazed it went as far as it did.”
Since Mr. Winter’s act of solidarity, William admits that he feels much better about being in the classroom:
“I feel a lot more comfortable.”
“I don’t let it bother me anymore.”
Since being uploaded to YouTube, William and his teacher’s story has been viewed thousands and thousands of times.
Two students have come forward, praising Mr. Winter in the comments. “I go to that school and know him; he is very nice,” said one. “Aww!! How amazing. He was my 4th-grade teacher in 04-05. He’s still amazing!” wrote the other.
It’s not just students who seem impressed with the teacher’s actions, however— adults seem enamored by him too. Comments on the video read:
“Wish there were more teachers like him.”
“It’s about time a teacher helps out! We need more teachers like him!”
NOTE: According to StopBullying.gov, roughly 1 in 3 American kids say they have been bullied at school. Bullying can worsen feelings of isolation, rejection, exclusion, and despair which can ultimately contribute to suicidal behavior. If someone you know is being bullied, please encourage them to speak out and seek help.
Hear William’s story below.
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