In case you missed it, check out the wonderful high school graduation celebration broadcast on most channels Saturday evening May 16.
The event was organized by The LeBron James Family Foundation and partners, and featured a message from LeBron James and a commencement address by former President Barack Obama.
The 1-hour celebration opened with a moving Star-Spangled Banner sung by an online chorus of graduating seniors.
The event also included appearances by Megan Rapinoe, Yara Shahidi, Olivia Wilde, Pharrell Williams, Malala Yousafzai, Zendaya, Bad Bunny, Timothée Chalamet, David Dobrik, Kevin Hart, H.E.R., Chris Harrison, Jonas Brothers featuring Karol G, Alicia Keys, Liza Koshy, Julianne Moore, Maren Morris, Kumail Nanjiani, Shaquille O’Neal, and Ben Platt.
More than 30 adults and young people joined members of the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force on November 19 in attending a Community Café on the topic of youth bullying.
A young woman opened the discussion at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center by sharing inspirational words based on her experiences with being bullied. She tasked all attendees with homework to put an end to bullying when it happens, and to listen to young people when they come to adults for help.
The GIAC Navigators performed an original rap song “Stop Bullying” that encouraged attendees to find common ground.
The event included a short but powerful video posted on YouTube by Spokane, Washington, Public Schools that included interviews with youth of all ages about bullying.
Participants then engaged in small-group conversations to share their own experiences, discuss existing resources and strategies, and offer ideas for bullying prevention. The information provided the attendees will be provided to the Task Force for consideration in its work.
Representatives from more than two dozen local government agencies, community organizations, and local schools formed the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force earlier this year to explore the prevalence of youth, teen, and young adult bullying and strategies to combat it.
The Task Force plans further community cafe events throughout the county in 2020.
To learn how to participate in the Task Force’s work or inquire about future community cafe events, email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force is launching a series of “community cafés,” starting with an event next Tuesday November 19 from 5:30 to 7 pm at the Greater Area Ithaca Center (GIAC) 301 West Court Street in Ithaca. The event is open to parents, students, professionals, educators, and all community members. Food and childcare will be provided.
A community café is a facilitated conversation that is used to spark creative ideas and solutions to local issues or concerns and that provides resources around a topic. The Task Force is keen to connect with local families in the community to learn about their experiences and thoughts around the topic of bullying in Tompkins County.
Specifically, we seek to gauge the awareness of local resources within our community and help inform ourselves about the current strategies being used, and what new strategies might be needed to help our youth address this important topic with success within their daily lives. We will also be seeking what resources might be needed within Tompkins County to help provide better supports for the parents of youth who are struggling with bullying.
The Task Force intends to use the information gathered at this local event to inform the larger work of the Task Force, and also help ensure that our community partners are using our local resources to garner maximum impact. While it is not always possible to prevent every single episode of bullying, we are committed to working with our local families to create safe spaces for our youth, where conversations can be had with caring adults to help them address the issue of bullying, should it ever impact them or another child in their circles.
Earlier this year, representatives from more than two dozen local government agencies, community organizations, and local schools formed the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force to explore the prevalence of youth, teen, and young adult bullying and strategies to combat it.
We hope you will consider joining us for this very important conversation next Tuesday at GIAC. We look forward to working together to help make Tompkins County a bullying free zone for everyone! If you have any questions or need further information, please reach out to the Tompkins County Youth Services Department at (607) 274-5310.
—By Kate Shanks-Booth
Kate Shanks-Booth is the director of the Tompkins County Youth Services Department and a coordinator for the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force
Some 200 people joined a rally at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center on October 7 in a passionate show of support for the first-ever Bullying Prevention Day in Tompkins County.
Taking a collective pledge not to bully
The rally featured a proclamation by the Tompkins County Legislature, speeches by Ithaca Police Chief Dennis Nayor, community leaders, and students, and performances by youth groups. A highlight of the rally came when attendees, wearing blue “Wash Away Bullying” t-shirts, took a collective pledge not to bully others.
“Every member of the Tompkins County community, government agencies, community organizations, school administrators, teachers, athletic coaches, parents, and students can play a part in creating a bully-free environment in our schools, athletics fields, public spaces, and online,” said Legislator Leslyn McBean-Clairborne in reading the proclamation.
Speakers at the GIAC rally
Nayor noted that bullying can cause long-lasting struggles in people’s lives. “Some of the issues we see later on in people’s lives like criminal activity could be rooted in a person’s experiences being bullied,” Nayor said, as reported by the Cornell Daily Sun. “We at the police department are committed to trying to find solutions, and we’re open to being a resource to that.” Nayor encouraged victims of bullying to contact police if they need help.
Ithaca Police Chief Dennis Nayor
Representatives from the Ithaca Youth Bureau, the Be the One campaign, and other organizations also attended the rally.
The rally included a performance by the GIAC Jumpers, a student dance, step, and double-dutch troupe. A group of second-to-fifth graders known as the Navigators performed a rap about kindness and a catchy rap-dance with a “don’t be a bully” message. Students also decorated the GIAC gym with handmade anti-bullying posters.
“Wash Away Bullying”
The t-shirts, with the color blue in solidarity with World Day of Bullying Prevention, were produced by GIAC’s Bitty Box Teen Entrepreneurship Program and sponsored by The Sophie Fund.
The rally was sponsored by GIAC and the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force, formed earlier this year by more than two dozen government agencies, community organizations, and representatives from school districts to explore youth bullying prevention strategies.
Several Tompkins County schools also marked Bullying Prevention Day on their campuses. Students and staff in the Lansing Central School District wore blue for the occasion. Students in the Lansing Middle School wrote words of encouragement in the hallway on the heels of September’s Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month.
Surveying students about the prevalence of bullying. Training teachers, coaches, parents, and young people on how to respond. Encouraging youth to be upstanders. Holding annual Bullying Prevention Day activities to spread awareness. These were a few of the ideas discussed Saturday at a two-hour Community Forum sponsored by the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force.
Celia Clement reviewing feedback on school bullying
The Task Force held the forum to introduce its work to the public and to solicit ideas from the community on strategies to address bullying. More than two dozen government agencies, community organizations, and representatives from the county’s six school districts formed the Task Force in March.
“A lot of these conversations and diving deep into these topics can become very personal and very painful, which we want to honor,” said Nigel Gannon, a Healthy Living Program Specialist for New York State 4-H Youth Development, who moderated the forum.
“We have to develop spaces where we can have those emotions in a positive way. Remember that we are all feeling the same [about bullying], in some way, as individuals, as loved ones, as community members. We are not happy to be here, I think we are hopeful to be here. We’re going to help the Task Force get the information they need to try to move this forward.”
Scott MacLeod of The Sophie Fund kicked off presentations by Task Force working groups by reviewing basic information about bullying in national, regional, and local contexts.
He noted the federal government’s definition of bullying, and how it should be distinguished from other behaviors such as conflict, rudeness, and meanness:
“Bullying is any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated.”
MacLeod explained how bullying has psychological, physical, and academic effects, and adversely affects youth who are bullied as well as those who engage in bullying. He said that youth who are perceived as different, especially LGBTQ children, are at greater risk. Persistent bullying, he added, can lead to or worsen feelings of isolation, rejection, exclusion, and despair, as well as depression and anxiety, which can contribute to suicidal behavior. MacLeod said that while there is no federal stature that expressly outlaws bullying, New York State’s Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) came into force in 2012 to protect students from bullying, harassment, and discrimination.
Citing statistics, MacLeod’s report said 19 percent of American high school students are bullied, and 14.9 percent experience cyberbullying. He said that data for the 2017-2018 school year, most likely reflecting underreporting, showed that Tompkins County school districts had 109 incidents of discrimination, harassment, and bullying , and 20 incidents of cyberbullying.
Celia Clement, a retired school social worker and now an independent consultant, delivered a report on potential approaches for addressing bullying in schools. She identified five areas for attention:
Communication: Families are not always getting the information they need about bullying definition, prevention, intervention, education, district policies and the laws involved such as the Dignity for All Students Act.
Education: Families and school staff want help around recognizing signs that their youth are struggling with mental health challenges, social challenges, or bullying. Students need to be educated as well around what is bullying, recognizing the difference between peer conflict and bullying, knowing the warning signs when adults need to be informed, and ways to intervene effectively when they see bullying, harassment or cyber bullying, or suicide warning signs.
Prevention: The key to successful intervention models is to include students as the core drivers when building programs that promote positive school cultures. There are existing local programs that can serve as models: Friendship Assistance Brigade, Stars, Be the One, and Welcoming Allies and Mentors.
Intervention: There is a need to educate school teaching staff and administrators about best practice around intervention when situations of conflict, bullying, harassment and cyber bullying occur—such as restorative practices as a way to support the target and to help the aggressor make changes. There is a need to offer strategies and tools to work with families in a way that promotes outcomes where everyone feels good about the process of addressing conflict and bullying situations.
Assessment: Schools need to conduct surveys about bullying to inform decisions for addressing the problem.
MacLeod also delivered a working group report on potential approaches for addressing bullying outside school property. He cited numerous ideas including holding an annual community forum and student leadership summit, providing training and information workshops, and launching awareness projects such as an annual Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Day.
Beth Hogan, a member of the Task Force’s Family Advisory Group, delivered a working group report on the concerns of parents surveyed by the group. She said parents experienced a significant increase in stress over bullying, and felt that they themselves were effectively being bullied. The parents believed that bullying was causing heightened levels of anxiety and depression in children, she added.
Hogan said that schools were reactive rather than proactive, and that mental health services inside and outside schools were inadequate. Hogan’s report called for frequent communication about bullying, including about the Dignity Act, to staff, families, and students. She said youth and parent involvement in bullying prevention should be a priority, and that the work should begin in the elementary grades.
Sophie Callister, a former student in the Lansing Central School District and now a student at Ithaca College, is the coordinator of the Task Force’s Student Advisory Group. “The bullying task force is something that means a huge deal to me because from third grade all through my school career it was a huge problem,” she said. “I want kids to feel like there is somebody willing to listen and help them and that they feel safe every day. I never really felt safe in school.” She said that rather than school counselors or psychologists the only person she felt she could go to for support was a math teacher. Callister said a goal of the task force is “to get the community involved—parents, students, everybody. This is not a time to be quiet.”
Community Forum on Bullying Prevention, Tompkins County Public Library
Forum participants provided feedback and engaged in discussion in breakout sessions. On school programs, participants argued that schools under report bullying incidents and do not create safe spaces for students. They noted that teachers and coaches themselves sometimes engage in bullying by humiliating students/athletes. Participants suggested strategies including peer mentors and giving students tools for confronting bullying.
For public action, participants proposed holding local public forums within the county’s six school districts to better encourage family participation in bullying prevention initiatives. Participants supported the idea of providing training and workshop opportunities to educate the community about bullying and prevention methods, and called for a centralized resource to provide information about the Dignity Act and how to file complaints about bullying incidents. The participants also endorsed exploring synergies with existing programs and activities, such as the “Be the One” campaign.
Participants who focused on family and student involvement emphasized the need for developing a common language to understand bullying, and the importance of student-led initiatives for success. They noted that it was essential to view those who bully as people also in need of support to address the underlying causes of their behavior.
Some participants called for greater attention to students who may be experiencing suicide ideation, noting that four young people from the Lansing community have died by suicide in just the past year. Participants highlighted opportunities for students to become involved by forming chapters of organizations such as Active Minds and Sources of Strength, and participating in activities such as Mental Health First Aid for Teens.