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Unity Day 2014

Everyone has an image in their mind when they hear the word “bullying”. For many of us, we picture an older kid being physical with a smaller child, knocking books out of their hands and laughing. However, bullying comes in all shapes and sizes. Numerous incidents of bullying that occur in school gets unnoticed because it is verbal and happens out of eye sight. It is important as a parent, teacher, counselor, or peer to recognize bullying when we see it and act immediately. There is no “safe” amount of bullying when it comes to a child’s emotional and physical well-being and that is why we celebrate Unity Day on October 22nd.

Unity Day is about how as community we need to unite against bullying. This goes beyond just the students, but for teachers, parents, and community members alike. Bullying can lead to an increase in risk of drop out, decrease in grades, physical illnesses like headaches or stomach aches, low self-esteem, self-isolation, anxiety, amongst many other negative results. Bullying does not toughen up a child or build character, but rather keeps the child from reaching his or her potential and makes them feel unsafe in a place where safety is priority.

Bullying can be physical, such as hitting or pushing, but also can be emotional with gossip, name calling and no longer remains just in the school setting. Now, because of social media and cell phones, bullying can follow the child home as they can be picked on and gossiped about on Facebook or receive mean and hurtful text messages. It is important to recognize this change in bullying, because now there is no safe place for a child, because it can follow you anywhere.
However, there is hope as children and adults are becoming more aware of bullying and things people can do to stop it. The most important thing is to not allow yourself to take the “easy” way and become a spectator. When you see someone being picked on or made fun of, whether in person or online, you need to act and tell either an adult or approach and support the person. Sometimes just having support from someone can make all the difference. It is important to speak up for the victim, not allowing it to just happen. It is also critical to be a role model for others. By standing up for someone being bullied, it will encourage others to do the same. It only takes one person to start a trend, and a trend against bullying is what Unity Day is all about.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, but it is something everyone should practice year round. Unity Day is about everyone uniting against bullying, including those who have been bullies before or have been the victims. It is about everyone coming together to stand against bullying and making the school a safer place for children everywhere.

For ideas on events you can do for Unity Day (like a school wide poster projects, petitions, or other events) visit Pacer.org/Bullying. None of us can afford to just be spectators anymore.