Tompkins Marks County’s First “Bullying Prevention Day”

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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GIAC Jumpers

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“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.

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Anti-Bullying Pledge

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.

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Lansing Central School District

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT BULLYING PREVENTION IN TOMPKINS COUNTY

Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Day!

The Tompkins County Legislature on Monday designated October 7 to be “Bullying Prevention Day” throughout the county and encouraged schools, community organizations, government agencies, and others to strive for a “bully-free environment.”

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Martha Robertson, Legislature chair; Kate Shanks-Booth, director of the Tompkins County Youth Services Department; Bridgette Nugent, Task Force co-coordinator

Legislature Chair Martha Robertson issued a proclamation at the Legislature’s meeting that observes a Bullying Prevention Day for the first time in the county. Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Day falls on World Day of Bullying Prevention and within National Bullying Prevention Month in October.

The proclamation reads in part: “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.”

The proclamation notes that more than two dozen government agencies, community organizations, parents, and representatives from the county’s six school districts formed the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force in March 2019. The Task Force’s mission is to facilitate comprehensive cooperation across the community in developing and promoting appropriate bullying prevention and response strategies in Tompkins County.

The Task Force is calling on Tompkins County schools to consider organizing special activities on October 7 in observance of Bullying Prevention Day. In a message sent to school districts, the Task Force suggests activities such as an all-school assembly featuring speakers, films, or skits; pledge-signing events; and walks/runs to raise awareness about bullying. The Task Force also asked teachers to consider classroom activities such as videos with follow-up discussions about tolerance and respect; and student presentations, creative writing assignments, or art projects on the bullying theme.

Click here to download the School Activities to Promote Bullying Prevention packet.

The Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC) and the Task Force are organizing a rally for 4:30 pm on October 7 at the Bernie Milton Pavilion in the Ithaca Commons to mark Bullying Prevention Day. Students will begin a march from GIAC to the Bernie Milton Pavilion at 4:15 pm for a peaceful gathering suitable for all ages. There will be performances by GIAC Jumpers, a proclamation, poster making, and a Task Force announcement about bullying prevention activities. Participants are encouraged to wear blue as the color symbolizing the fight against bullying.

“The Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force is pleased to celebrate Tompkins County’s first Bullying Prevention Day,” said Bridgette Nugent, Task Force co-coordinator. “The primary goal of the Task Force is to mobilize all stakeholders in the community to recognize the negative impacts of bullying and to support efforts for its intervention and prevention. We hope that by raising awareness and energizing the community to address bullying on this day, we can further energize students, families, and community members to put an end to bullying in our county.”

Kate Shanks-Booth, director of the Tompkins County Youth Services Department, said that Bullying Prevention Day offered an important step forward.

“The Tompkins County Youth Services Department deals with all the different municipalities and school districts that are encompassed within Tompkins County,” she said. “We hear from our partners at every level that bullying is a major area of concern, as the physical and emotional trauma experienced during these events lasts a lifetime. We are doing our part, working with Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force and other local partners to ensure that every youth in Tompkins County can thrive in life, work, and school without the negative impacts of all types of bullying.”

Celia Clement, a longtime school social worker and Task Force member, said: “The key to creating caring, kind, inclusive and safe school cultures is to empower students to be the agents of change.”

Clement said that the Task Force hopes that schools will initiate regular activities to increase awareness, facilitate discussions, and create opportunities for critical thinking and problem solving as part of an ongoing exploration and discussion between staff and students.

“Healthy school communities flourish and are sustainable when students are the driving force in creating kind and inclusive cultures,” said Clement. “We anticipate that providing these opportunities for education and dialogue will serve as a catalyst for students to take ownership in initiating Upstander leadership programs that will be responsive to the unique needs of their schools.”

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Download the Bullying Prevention Day Poster [DOWNLOAD]

TC Bullying Prevention Day Proclamation

Download the Tompkins County proclamation [DOWNLOAD]

For more information, go to:

https://thesophiefund.org/bullying/

 

Our Community Walks to Prevent Suicide

Thanks to everyone who participated in Saturday’s annual “Out of the Darkness” Walk in support of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Our mission to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide would not be possible without you. This year, the 383 people taking part in the walk held in Myers Park in Lansing raised more than $34,000.

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AFSP started as a research-based organization, when a small group of families affected by suicide banded together with scientists who wanted to understand more. The funds raised in “Out of the Darkness” walks throughout the country help fund innovative and exciting research that will enable us to find better ways to stop suicide. This past year, AFSP invested nearly $5 million dollars in cutting edge scientific research.

The funds also help AFSP develop and share education programs like “Talk Saves Lives,” and “It’s Real,” a film about college students and mental health. These programs give people practical strategies for recognizing the warning signs, and preventing suicide in their communities. AFSP’s Interactive Screening Program gives students, workers, and veterans a safe way to reach out for support. Together, we are creating a culture that’s smart about mental health.

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By joining us, walkers help us to provide support to the many people affected by suicide. In the Survivor Outreach Program, for example, those who have lost a loved one to suicide can receive a visit from a trained volunteer who is also a suicide loss survivor. This way, someone who is further along in their healing journey can share their wisdom about what helped them after their loss. Our annual Survivor Day events reach more families affected by suicide each year.

The funds also enable AFSP advocates in Washington to do their work of fighting to pass legislation that will save lives. Many states now have better mental health programs and mandatory suicide prevention training for teachers. This is real and lasting change.

By joining us in Myers Park Saturday, the walkers sent the message that mental health is as real as physical health, and that reaching out for help is the strong thing to do. The walkers showed others that suicide, which is currently the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, can no longer be swept under the rug.

As a community, we know we have much to do, as we lose close to 45,000 lives to suicide every year in our country. While we are saddened by these deaths, we also see them as a call to action for our nation to do more to prevent suicide. Our annual walks help us continue to fight for a day when no one will die by suicide. By walking with us, you honor the memory of the loved ones we’ve lost.

—By Crystal Howser

Crystal Howser is the co-chair of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Greater Ithaca Walk

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Photo credits: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention & Friends

Click here for more information about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Central New York chapter

Click here to add your donation to the Out of the Darkness Walk

[If you or someone you know feels the need to speak with a mental health professional, you can contact the Crisisline (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.]

Ready? It’s Time for Ithaca’s 4th Annual Cupcake Contest!

Tasty cakes. Delicious frostings. Creative toppings. We can’t wait to see what cupcake delights our amateur bakers have in store for us again this year. The 4th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest will take place in the Commons on Saturday October 19.

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Contestants of all ages are invited and will be eligible for dozens of prizes including a Grand Prize valued at $250. (Open to amateur bakers only.)

Attention Teens and Pre-Teens: A $100 gift certificate redeemable at dozens of downtown Ithaca shops will be presented with this year’s Special Youth Award!

The contest is organized by The Sophie Fund, which was established in 2016 in memory of Cornell University art student Sophie Hack MacLeod to support mental health initiatives aiding young people.

The 4th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest is sponsored by GreenStar Natural Foods Market, Alternatives Federal Credit Union, and Cayuga Medical Center.

To enter the cupcake contest, contestants are asked to bring their submissions to the Bernie Milton Pavilion in the Ithaca Commons from 10–11:30 a.m. on Saturday October 19. The winners will be announced and prizes awarded at a ceremony at the Pavilion later the same day at 3 p.m. There will be musical acts throughout the day!

Sophie’s passion for baking cupcakes inspired the launch of the contest in 2016. At the time of her death by suicide at age 23, while on a medical leave of absence from Cornell, Sophie was active in Ithaca’s vibrant culinary scene. According to her family, she hoped to open her own bakery after completing her Cornell degree.

In conjunction with the contest, The Sophie Fund is again organizing a “Cupcake Button” fundraising campaign, with monies donated this year to the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County, which fights sexual assault and domestic violence.

Click here for all the information on contest procedures and rules, and to download a registration form.

Brief Guide to Youth Bullying Prevention

Nearly one in five American high school students experiences bullying while at school. A higher percentage of girls are bullied than boys. One in three lesbian, gay, or bisexual students is bullied. Victims of bullying may suffer serious and long-lasting physical, psychological, and academic effects. Those who bully also need help: they are more likely to drop out of school, abuse alcohol and drugs, and engage in criminal activity.

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Representatives from more than two dozen local government agencies, community organizations, and local schools have formed the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force to explore the prevalence of youth bullying and strategies to combat it.

On the occasion of a Community Forum sponsored by the Task Force on June 15, The Sophie Fund presents the Brief Guide to Bullying Prevention. The guide highlights useful facts and figures, helpful resources on bullying prevention, and information about reporting acts of bullying, harassment, or discrimination under New York’s Dignity for All Students Act (DASA).

Prevalence of Youth Bullying

  • 19.0% of high school students were bullied at school in 2016-17.
  • 14.9% of high school students experienced electronic bullying.
  • More female students (22.3%) were bullied compared to male students (15.6%).
  • More female students (19.7%) were electronically bullied compared to male students (9.9%).
  • More lesbian, gay, or bisexual students (33.0%) were bullied at school than heterosexual students (17.1%) or students not sure of their sexual identity (24.3%).
  • 21.7% of New York high school students were bullied at school (higher than national average of 19.0%) in 2016-17.
  • More New York female students (24.6%) were bullied compared to male students (18.7%).
  • Nearly twice as many New York gay, lesbian, or bisexual students (34.6%) were bullied compared to heterosexual students (19.4%).
  • Tompkins County school districts reported 109 incidents of discrimination, harassment, and bullying (excluding cyberbullying), and 20 incidents of cyberbullying, in the 2017-2018 school year under the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA).
  • The 2018 Communities that Care Youth Survey of schools in Tompkins County and Seneca County found that more than a third of high school students reported feeling depressed on most days.

 

Basics of Youth Bullying

Definition: “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.” Types include physical, verbal, and relational. Cyberbullying involves e-mail, instant messaging, blogs, chat rooms, gaming systems, tweeting, or social media.

Potential Psychological Effects: Depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, self- harming behavior (especially for girls), alcohol and drug use and dependence, aggression, involvement in violence or crime (especially for boys), emotional distress, hostility, and delinquency.

Potential Physical Effects: Immediate physical injury, sleep disorders, stomach aches, headaches, heart palpitations, dizziness, bedwetting, chronic pain, somatization (a syndrome of distressful, physical symptoms that cannot be explained by a medical cause), stress-related impact on the immune system and hormones, and impact on brain activity and functioning.

Potential Academic Effects: Impact on grades and standardized test scores starting as early as kindergarten and continuing through high school.

Bullying and Suicide: Persistent bullying can lead to or worsen feelings of isolation, rejection, exclusion, and despair, as well as depression and anxiety, which can contribute to suicidal behavior. Most young people who die by suicide have multiple risk factors.

Click here to read the Brief Guide to Youth Bullying Prevention, or click here to download a PDF.