The Grade 12 students weren't trying to tap the zeitgeist by organizing a wear-pink protest movement. But by standing up to local bullies, they accidentally put the issue atop the agenda.
Attention has flowed in from around the world, and an untold number of schools have followed suit since David Shepherd, Travis Price and a few friends reacted to a Grade 9 student being threatened for wearing a pink shirt on his first day of school this year.
"Most of your life you just stand by and watch it happen. You know you should do something but you don't," Mr. Shepherd said yesterday.
Not this time - they'd had it with bullies and decided enough was enough.
By the end of that first week, they had met with staff members at Central Kings Rural High School, in the eastern Annapolis Valley, and purchased dozens of pink shirts. Gathering support from other youths through MSN Messenger and Facebook, a social networking website, they started handing out the shirts on a Friday morning. They ran out in minutes.
After a quick shopping trip, more than 100 students at the school were wearing pink - a visible statement to the bullies that they were in the minority.
"The main bullier just left, he went home, and there was a lot of cursing, ranting and raving," Mr. Shepherd recalled.
The simple act helped change the dynamic at the school.
"Kids aren't as intimidated to come to school," said Mr. Price, who remembers faking illness when he was younger so he could stay home and avoid bullies. "We haven't put a stop to it, but we put a dent in it. We said it's okay to stand up."
The young men felt they had made their point, but the effects of their action continue to reverberate.
Dozens of Halifax schools have held similarly themed protests, and earlier this month several community-liaison officers in the Lower Sackville area sought permission to wear pink armbands to show their support.
Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald was reportedly wearing a pink tie and using a pink pen last month when he declared that the second Thursday of the school year would be known as Stand Up Against Bullying Day.
Dan Coté, a vice-principal at the school where it all began, said they have received queries from as far away as Switzerland.
The idea has snowballed so quickly that it is impossible to know how many schools have followed suit. Peacock Collegiate, in Moose Jaw, held a pink-themed day last week, and an estimated 90 per cent of students wore pink yesterday at Toronto's Malvern Collegiate Institute.
"I certainly think there was a stronger sense of community at the school today," said Malvern principal Line Pinard, who described the initiative as student-driven. "It's not only about sexual choice, it's about being tolerant and understanding."
"I think that, for teenagers, you're sort of discovering your own identity and discovering who you are," said Mike Izzo, a history teacher, chair of the anti-bully committee and faculty adviser for the Rainbow Club at Malvern.
"I think that's why it comes up in the high schools; there's peer pressure to fit into the mainstream."