October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.

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An Opinion of Morgan Hill Life

Growing up is a difficult process for many young people. That’s why we advocate that we all make a habit of showing genuine respect for everyone – but especially to all children and teens. The words we say and the actions we do to them can impact their lives for good or ill. Respect for one another should especially be shown in our schools where there is already tremendous pressures — academic, social and other stressors — that can put strain on young minds.

Let’s consider a recent incident at Gilroy High School where respect was not shown to a young person by his fellow students. The outcome impacted our South Valley community. Police cited four varsity football players Oct. 1 for alleged sexual battery on a fellow athlete in a locker room. The investigation began Sept. 26 when the assault was reported to the police.

All the students involved were minors and members of the team. Gilroy Police Department said in a statement that there was no evidence that the assault was a “hate-motivated crime.” The football season was canceled after most of the varsity players chose not to finish the season in protest after the incident.

Showing respect for others is a character trait that can and must be taught to young people. And it’s especially vital in our age where social media is often used to create isolation and encourage ill treatment toward young people. We should encourage respect toward others as a trait all throughout the year, but the fall season after the school year starts can provide special motivation for doing this.

October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.  Since 2006, schools and communities have made efforts to become more aware of the serious consequences of bullying during October by learning more about bullying prevention and the importance of spreading kindness.

Bullying is unsolicited, hostile behavior that implicates a real or perceived imbalance of power. Such actions can include starting or perpetuating rumors, making threats and/or inflicting emotional or physical harm. While bullying can affect anyone at any age, it is extremely pronounced among school-age children, particularly in the form of cyber-bullying.

Studies have shown a strong link between bullying and many negative outcomes for individuals who are victims, including adverse impacts on mental health, and an increase in substance abuse and suicide.

Promoting acts of kindness is just one of the many ways to prevent bullying. It is also important for adults and children to openly discuss the real impacts of bullying while fostering kind and respectful behavior. Bullying can be prevented in the South Valley region, especially when the residents of our communities work together with our schools to identify broad based pre-emptive strategies.

Bullying can threaten students’ physical and emotional safety at school and can negatively impact their ability to learn. The best way to deal with bullying is to stop it before it starts. There are a number of things school staff and teachers can do to make schools safer and prevent bullying of students.

There are various activities to teach students how to respect each other and prevent bullying. Schools can incorporate the topic of bullying prevention in lessons and activities.

Examples of activities to train young people about bullying include (from www.stopbullying.gov):

  • Internet or library research, such as looking up types of bullying, how to prevent it, and how kids should respond;
  • Presentations, such as a speech or role-play on stopping bullying;
  • Discussions about topics like reporting bullying;
  • Creative writing, such as a poem speaking out against bullying or a story or skit teaching bystanders how to help;
  • Artistic works, such as a collage about respect or the effects of bullying; and
  • Classroom meetings to talk about peer relations.

National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month has brought schools, community organizations and the government and education agencies together to collectively strategize and identify tools that can be used to prevent bullying. The website www.stopbullying.gov provides training and materials for bullying awareness and prevention.

During the month of October, take a moment with your children and teens to reflect upon the importance of spreading awareness about and help to prevent bullying.

If you or someone you know is being subjected to bullying behavior, there are ways to receive help. We encourage you to visit www.stopbullying.gov to learn more about what you can do to put an end to bullying in our South Valley community — and especially our schools.

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Morgan Hill Life Editorial

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