Making Every Community A Bully-Free Community

Did you know that one out of seven school-age children is either a bully or a victim of bullying? And that an estimated 160,000 children miss school every day for fear of intimidation or attack? Bullies are everywhere, on the playground, in the classroom, at the workplace and, more and more often, online.  In 2009, a group of Middlesex County business owners decided to do something about it, and working through the Community Foundation of Middlesex County, established the Council of Business Partners Fund to underwrite the development of the school-based “No Bully Zone” program with the help of Rushford, a Hartford Healthcare Partner.

The curriculum emphasizes student peer-to-peer training and empowerment, and offers a “train the trainer” component for teachers.  To date, the partnership has implemented the program, in Keigwin Middle and Woodrow Wilson Middle schools in Middletown; in the Haddam-Killingworth school district; in Oddfellows Playhouse and Ivoryton Playhouse projects; The Country School; and in conjunction with The First Tee of Connecticut youth programs.  It has also been adapted for school bus travel on buses operated by M&J Bus and will be implemented this year in the East Hampton school system with support from the Shulman Family Fund and the East Hampton Rotary Club.

Last October, in conjunction with National Bullying Prevention Month, the CFMC Council of Business Partners launched the ongoing Campaign for Bully-Free Communities in an effort to rally every Middlesex County resident, business owner, municipality, school district, library and other community organization to pledge to stand together against bullying and all mean-spirited behavior.  To expand the campaign’s reach and impact, the Council joined forces with the Connecticut Association of Schools, EMPOWER Leadership Sports, The First Tee of Connecticut, LiveKind, Rushford, A Hartford Healthcare Partner, iCRV Radio, former NBA and UCONN basketball player Donny Marshall, and Elizabeth Shulman (LMFT).

The community’s response has exceeded expectations.  Five hundred pledges have been signed and close to 7500 students, educators, school bus drivers, and parents have participated in prevention training and programs.  So much good is being done by our schools, our businesses, and our civic leaders that it needs to be recognized as an example of how great things can happen when we all work together.  Our plan to do so includes the presentation of the Bully-Free Communities Spotlight Award, to be given to a school or organization that has implemented a program or has supported a positive and safe learning environment.  The first award will be presented at the second annual Rally for Bully-Free Communities, happening on October 21, Unity Day, at EMPOWER Sports Leadership and Adventure Center in Middletown.  All are invited to attend with free bus transportation being provided for middle school and high school students in each of the 15 Middlesex County towns.

It is up to each and every one of us to put an end to negative behavior by learning more about the issues and the resources available for empowering individuals and preventing destructive choices. We want kids to know that “we’ve got their back” by providing them with real and useful tools to stand together and to stand up for one another.  Our goal is to truly make a difference in their lives and throughout our communities.  For more information on the Campaign for Bully-Free Communities or the Bully-Free Communities Spotlight Award, call the Community Foundation at 860-347-0025 or go to bullyfree.middlesexcountycf.org.

 

This article was previously published in October, 2015,  in both the Valley Courier and the Harbor News.

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