Students around the state are settling in with new classes and teachers and looking ahead to football games, dances and concerts. While for most students, the return to school means uniting with friends, for some, it means returning to the threat of bullying.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, a campaign founded by PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center. It strives to raise awareness about bullying and "encourages everyone to take an active role in the bullying prevention movement."
The increasing number of teen suicides and suicide attempts has led to a public outcry in recent years, leading more people to understand the consequences of brushing bullying off as a rite of passage and a way for kids to toughen up. Exposure to needless cruelty is not the way to learn strength and resolve. Our technology-based world means there are many forms of bullying that are easily undetected and make it impossible for kids to escape bullies, even outside of school.
As the largest girl-serving organization in the country, Girl Scouts of the USA, or GSUSA, has been examining bullying. Its research shows that girl-bullying takes on a life of its own; while boys tend to use physical aggression, girls are relationally aggressive by teasing, forming cliques and using social media in negative ways such as spreading rumors. To address these issues, GSUSA launched BFF (Be a Friend First), giving girls tools to recognize bullying, resolve conflicts, build confidence and be a better friend.
Girls across the nation are getting involved on an individual level as well. Last year, local Girl Scout alumna Tori Cassidy earned her Girl Scout Gold Award - the highest award a Girl Scout can earn - with an anti-bullying project called Build Her Up. The project raised awareness through social media and other avenues, sharing a number of stories, statistics and quotes related to bullying. Cassidy and her mom still actively manage the Build Her Up Facebook page, inspiring others to advocate for kindness and to help others.
Cassidy believes that Girl Scouts helps girls combat bullying. "Even in small ways, it helps girls know they aren't alone and helps girls build confidence. It did for me, anyway," Cassidy said.
As members of the community, we can all advocate against bullying and the devastating affect it can have. Girl Scout councils throughout the country are hoping October's spotlight on bullying prevention will bring awareness to the issue and pull more people toward the cause.
To learn more about National Bullying Prevention Month, visit pacer.org/bullying. To learn about BFF, visit forgirls.girlscouts.org/bff/. "Like" Tori Cassidy's anti-bullying Facebook page by searching "Build Her Up."