When the National Bullying Prevention Center launched its first nationwide campaign in October 2006, the goal was to put a spotlight on bullying and offer ways for schools, businesses and community groups to help stop it.
Since then, the campaign has mushroomed into National Bullying Prevention Month each October, drawing high-profile supporters ranging from journalist Anderson Cooper to comedian Ellen DeGeneres.
Thousands of communities across the nation now participate in petition drives, school anti-bully campaigns and other educational events organized through the Bloomington-based center and its website offering a tool kit of ideas.
“We’ve gone through 2,500 posters in the past 10 days from schools, businesses and other groups,” said Julie Herzog, director of the project, part of nonprofit PACER Center.
“And that’s without doing any promotion around it,” she said. “It’s phenomenal.”
As part of the campaign, a survey now is conducted each year to gauge the scope of bullying. In this year’s online survey of 1,500 teens, more than 80 percent reported they had been teased or bullied.
Sixty-four percent said they were teased because of their weight, clothes or other aspects of their physical appearance, the survey said. One in four worried about being bullied at least once a week.
The survey was commissioned by the Virginia-based CustomInk company, a longtime supporter of the bullying prevention center, and conducted by Kelton Global. Including “teasing” in the survey was important, said Herzog, because it often isn’t considered bullying, but has the same effect.
Herzog was heartened by one survey finding, namely that 72 percent of the teens said they would join a bullying prevention project. That holds “tremendous potential,” she said.
This year’s biggest effort will be Oct. 22, which is Unity Day. Expect to see students and teachers wearing orange — the project’s color — as well as educational campaigns around the state and on social media. Go to www.pacer.org/bullying.
Jean Hopfensperger 612-673-4511