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The power of Facebook was shown recently when a few groups on the popular social networking site prompted the bruising of flame-haired children. One group urged people to "get them steel toes ready." "National Kick A Ginger Day" on Nov. 20 resulted in the suspension of students in such places as Sooke, B.C. and Calgary. Most of the incidents reported by the media occurred in Canada.
In Nanaimo, B.C., a 13-year-old boy estimated he was kicked about 80 times. This prompted him to stay home from school the next day, according to a Nov. 25 Canwest New Service article. In Sooke, 20 middle school students were suspended for following the groups' instructions. More than a dozen students were suspended by Calgary's Catholic School Board and at least two were kept out of public schools, according to a Nov. 26 Calgary Sun story.
"To feel you have to keep your children home from school for their safety is unacceptable," said Diane Paquet, a Prince George, B.C. mother, who voiced her concerns at a school board meeting. Paquet's daughter was abused on the day. The mother died her own hair red and used many colourful hair clips to draw attention to its colour at the meeting. She was quoted in a Nov. 26 Prince George Citizen article.
In some places, the word "racism" has been mentioned during discussions and media reports of the attacks. A Nov. 21 CBC News website report noted that Calgary police were looking into some of the assaults as possible hate crime. A Calgary mother's Grade 7 daughter was one of four girls who were kicked repeatedly by about a dozen girls and boys. While many of the perpetrators were suspended, the mother pushed for expulsion.
"It's assault - it's racist, too," she was quoted as saying in a Nov. 22 Sun Media website story.
While there were a few "Kick A Ginger Day" groups on Facebook, the largest was administered by a 14-year-old boy in Courtenay, B.C. It drew almost 5,000 members by Nov. 20. Members joined from as far away as Alabama and Norway. The Comox Valley Royal Canadian Mounted Police looked into the matter, but closed their investigation without charges. The teen had reportedly inherited the administrative duties from a high school student a few days before Nov. 20, according to the Canwest News Service article.
The boy said the group was supposed to be a joke. He said he did not kick any redheads and was "not sure why anyone else would take action."
"I'm going to apologize," he said. "I'll message everyone and say I'm sorry that this offended people."
"Kick A Ginger Day" was apparently inspired by an episode of the satirical cartoon show South Park. The "Ginger Kids" episode was originally broadcasted on Nov. 9, 2005. In it the character Cartman does a class report on "ginger kids" and states they are soulless, inherently evil and disgusting. Two other characters turn Cartman into a redhead. He then encourages the "gingers" to fight for their rights by any means necessary.
In real life, young people might be following the same path. After the Nov. 20 incidents, a new Facebook group entitled "Kick a Non-Ginger Day" was started with a Dec. 5 date.
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