HARRISBURG – Advocates for bullying prevention gathered Monday at the state capitol to take a stand for the commonwealth’s 1.7 million students as Gov. Tom Wolf proclaimed October as Bullying Prevention Month.
Students, parents, teachers, law enforcement, legislators and community partners rallied in support of bullying prevention efforts.
More than one in four children in the United States report experiences with bullying, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Bullying is an important public health issue known to have negative effects on children’s physical and emotional well-being, social development and learning.
With this proclamation, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania acknowledged the vital importance of bullying prevention efforts to each child’s learning, health and success later in life.
“We all know that bullying is an issue that extends beyond the doors of the school,” said Center for Safe Schools Director Shileste Overton Morris.
“If bullying prevention efforts are to be sustained, support from community stakeholders and all levels of government is needed.
“Thank you, Gov. Wolf for recognizing bullying prevention as an important issue and the Highmark Foundation for your 10-year investment in strategies to stop bullying.”
The event also recognized the launch of the online Bullying Prevention Toolkit, a Web site that provides centralized, authoritative, easy-to-use information and resources to help families, schools and communities identify, understand and prevent bullying and support children affected by it.
The new toolkit was developed by the Center for Safe Schools and the Highmark Foundation.
“For the past 10 years, we have partnered with the Center for Safe Schools on bullying prevention,” said Highmark Foundation President Yvonne Cook.
“Today we are proud to join Gov. Wolf in recognizing Bullying Prevention Month and launching the online Bullying Prevention Toolkit, a culmination of our efforts to provide a lasting, valued and open resource for everyone to better address incidents of bullying.”
The Highmark Foundation and the Center for Safe Schools are working to put more adults in a position to help children and intervene appropriately in bullying situations.
The online tool includes specific information about how to differentiate between bullying and conflict, how to respond to cyberbullying and potential legal implications of bullying-type behaviors.
It contains a guide for connecting children to relevant assistance, a sample letter informing the school of a bullying incident and a list of vetted resources on bullying intervention and support.
“In addition to helping parents, the online toolkit is especially valuable to schools that do not have bullying prevention programs in place and to agencies typically called upon in crisis situations,” Morris said.
“It ensures that families and agencies have a fast track to assessing and meeting needs when bullying occurs.”
“At the Highmark Foundation, as we delved into the issue of bullying prevention, we recognized a significant problem. Parents who needed immediate support did not know where to turn,” Cook added.
“The Bullying Prevention Toolkit is one tool that begins to bridge those gaps and provides parents with the resources they need to quickly assess and address the situation.”
“Together, the partners in this work are changing attitudes, behavior and practice through cultivating safe schools and communities for Pennsylvania’s children,” Morris said.
The Bullying Prevention Toolkit is available at BPtoolkit.safeschools.info. Follow the rally on Twitter @Center_Schools.