A nationwide event that encourages students to harass kids based on the colour of their hair is garnering serious attention from anti-bullying groups and parents.

The Facebook event "National Kick a Ginger" day has almost 4,700 members across Canada and has sparked a rash of opinions in support and against on the social networking site.

The movement was started after an episode of the controversial animated show South Park advocated "Kick a Ginger" day Nov. 20.

The episode refers to red-headed people as "nasty" and "born with a disease."

Ottawa mother Juanita McNairn said she let her 13-year-old son stay home Thursday because he was so afraid.

"My son was beside himself," said McNairn. "He was delaying getting out of bed and when it came down to the crunch he just burst into tears and told me about the whole ginger thing."

McNairn said the students in her son's class told him all week they were planning to kick him when he arrived at school.

Anti-bullying advocate Rob Frenette said he was shocked when he found out about the group.

"We are very taken back that students would pick a certain group of people to harass due to their hair color," he told CTV News from New Brunswick.

Frenette said attacking someone based on their physical appearance could be considered a hate crime. He adds that social networking sites like Facebook that allow young people to group quickly makes a potential problem escalate quickly.

"This is definitely something that is growing globally unfortunately," said Frenette. "I think this needs to be looked at closely and quickly before it gets out of hand."

Irene Lanzinger, the president of the B.C. Teachers Federation, agreed.

"This is sometimes excused as a joke and we have to make sure we understand that it is never funny or acceptable to harm or harass another person," she said.

Lanzinger said that even though most kids may treat the "Kick a Ginger" day as a joke, some kids may escalate the level of violence. But she says there can be an opportunity to use this day as a lesson for kids.

"Teachers can ask kids what they think of it and make it into an acceptable debate," she says. "It's a good way to encourage each other and kids will always come to the conclusion on their own that you need to be respectful of each other."