JC Penney employees at the Prien Lake Mall welcomed Friday’s back-to-school shoppers with the anti-bullying campaign “Be a Buddy not a Bully.” Clad in green polo shirts, associates and supervisors wore badges to commemorate the occasion with the reminder that wearing a green shirt is no reason to bully.
Store supervisor Becky Johnson started the movement four years ago after her children begged her not to purchase green uniform shirts.
“Oh no, Mama. You get bullied bad if you wear green. You wear green, you open up the door to just get bullied the whole school year,” Johnson’s children warned her.
She began to notice the trend as students came into the store throughout the year in only white or blue polos and she also noticed it professionally in the lagging sales numbers for green shirts.
“JC Penny gets green in every year and we don’t sell them. We probably sell one or two greens,” she said. “When we do orders for uniforms for the next year I always tell corporate, ‘Don’t send me too much green. We’re not going to sell it.’ ”
Kendryl Joseph, also a store supervisor, said the shirts seem to sell pretty well with children in lower grades who may not be aware of the unfair and negative perceptions related to the color.
Regardless of the trends, Joseph said “Be a Buddy not a Bully” is an effort to bring more awareness of the power of words and friendship.
“With the climate in America today with children committing suicide with bullying, we have to do our part,” Joseph said. “We need to teach them it’s OK. It’s nothing but a color!”
Employee Sierra Stevens, a recent graduate, said the stereotypes around the color were not lost on her during school.
“They thought it wasn’t a good color to wear because the popular people didn’t wear them,” she said. “They wouldn’t clown them, but they’d talk about them.”
Paryella Hardy, a Washington-Marion Magnet High graduate, said the stigma around green extended beyond name calling at her school.
Even though green was one of the school’s colors “nobody wore green,” she said. “If they did, they were by themselves. They didn’t have friends.”
She suggested that perhaps if “cool kids” started wearing the shirts, the tide could turn towards more inclusivity.
Johnson said at the very least she hopes Friday’s campaign will “spark the conversation” between parents, students and community members towards more positivity.