Stillwater, Oklahoma — As part of an effort to combat school bullying, the Stillwater school district is holding a series of events this week to make students and faculty aware of the problem and its effects.
The program is part of Oklahoma Bullying Prevention Awareness Week, a statewide initiative to bring the problem to the attention of students, educators and parents statewide, said David Hargrove, the district’s counseling coordinator.
“The idea is to educate everybody about bullying, to let them know that we care about bullying and that we’re not going to tolerate it,” Hargrove said.
In July, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin issued an executive proclamation naming Oct. 2-8 Oklahoma Bullying Prevention Awareness Week. In the proclamation, Fallin acknowledged that targets of bullying are more likely to acquire physical, emotional and learning problems and that children who bully are at greater risk of going on to commit more serious acts of violence.
The issue of bullying has returned to the national spotlight in recent weeks following the suicide of a New York teenager. Jamey Rodemeyer, 14, hanged himself outside his home in suburban Buffalo, N.Y., last month. Rodemeyer’s mother said her son had often been the target of anti-gay bullying at school.
A new Associated Press-MTV poll of youth in their teens and early 20s finds that most of them — 56 percent — have been the target of some type of online taunting, harassment or bullying, a slight increase over just two years ago.
Hargrove said the district’s events during the week are tailored toward certain age groups. For instance, he said, students at Stillwater Junior High will participate in a scavenger hunt and an art contest, while Stillwater Middle School students will be writing poetry about bullying. Middle school students will also be encouraged to sit at lunch with students with whom they might not typically interact, he said.
Staff members are also participating in bullying prevention training, Hargrove said. The training includes slideshow presentations and group discussions, Hargrove said. Among the objectives of the training are defining bullying, helping the participants understand its impact on the target and bystanders and understanding the increasing frequency of school shooting.
Hargrove said this week isn’t the only occasion when the district concerns itself with bullying. He equated it to the anti-drug activities the district holds during Red Ribbon Week: the district uses the week as a designated time to emphasize a message it tries to convey throughout the year.
“As a school district, we promote anti-bullying every day,” Hargrove said. “Swift action is taken to stop bullying to ensure that our students and schools are safe.”
Silas Allen writes for the Stillwater NewsPress.