In light of National Bullying Prevention month, OCDE today joins millions of people from across the country to celebrate Unity Day.
Started by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, Unity Day is the signature event of National Bullying Prevention Month and is held on the third Wednesday in October. The goal is to spread a universal message that we are united in kindness, acceptance and inclusion.
While October may be the national month for raising awareness about bullying, OCDE’s Bullying Prevention team works year-round to support schools throughout Orange County with their efforts to provide a safe, welcoming and positive environment for students, families and staff members.
The team provides training, technical assistance and school-wide assemblies on the topics of bullying prevention and intervention strategies. Trainings for parents and families are also provided on the subjects of digital citizenship and cyberbullying.
And while social distancing may have lessened bullying on school campuses, it likely hasn’t done the same for cyberbullying. OCDE Administrator for Student Achievement and Wellness Nicole Savio Newfield says COVID-19 and virtual learning have been the catalyst for an increase in cyberbullying.
“A major crisis, such as a global pandemic, can create stress, confusion, anxiety and depression in students,” said Savio. “Over a prolonged period of time, it can lead to misunderstandings, acting out or lashing out at others in the form of cyberbullying.”
With distance learning here to stay for the foreseeable future, there are steps educators and families can take to help students navigate the digital world more safely and thoughtfully.
OCDE offers the following bullying prevention and awareness programs and services – currently being redesigned into virtual formats – for students in various grade levels, along with a self-guided workshop for parents.
“One” is a bullying prevention assembly for elementary schools presented by award-winning author and illustrator Kathryn Otoshi. During the assembly, Otoshi incorporates colors and numbers while offering a powerful message about bullying, acceptance, compassion and the power of one person’s voice. The interactive presentation is followed by a school-wide art project or youth development activity designed to reinforce the bullying prevention message and the kindness pledge learned during the assembly.
“Cyberbullying and the Harm on Youth” is a special training offered for students in grades four through 12. Focus areas for the training include the effects of cyberbullying and digital drama, proactive prevention strategies, internet safety, communication etiquette and how to report cyberbullying.
“I’ve Got Your Back” includes trainings for select groups of student leaders as well as school-wide assemblies that address concerns about bullying, the consequences that may arise from bullying, and what students can do to help prevent bullying. This two-day program utilizes a collective approach by involving students to maintain accountability and unity through a school-wide bullying prevention campaign.
“Cyberbullying and Digital Drama” is currently available online in a self-guided format, or it can be scheduled as a virtual workshop for parent groups with facilitation by OCDE staff. The presentation was developed using curriculum from Common Sense Education and consists of three brief modules: “What is cyberbullying?”, “What do I need to look out for as a parent?” and “How can I help my child with preventing and dealing with cyberbullying?”
Bullying Prevention is part of OCDE’s Violence Prevention Education (VPE) program, which is funded by the Orange County Health Care Agency, Behavioral Health Services, Prevention and Intervention, Mental Health Services ACT/Proposition 63. For more information on any of these programs, or to be placed on a program interest list, please contact Jacquie Johnson, OCDE project liaison, at JacquieJohnson@ocde.us or 714-966-4473.