By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
The child who cannot eat lunch in the school cafeteria without looking over his shoulder. The child who takes the long way around from one class to another in order to avoid certain people. The child for whom the locker room or playground is a war zone. The child who dreads checking email or Facebook, not knowing what he or she will find there.
“When one child is hurt, we are all hurt,” said Octavious Tookes, Safe Schools Coordinator for Madison County, adding that he was calling on the Safe School Zones planning committee to help deal with the problem of bullying in Madison’s schools. “We want to shine a spotlight on the problem, and keep that spotlight on it.”
October is Anti-Bullying Awareness Month, and the Safe Schools Committee, consisting of approximately 20 members “and growing,” said Tookes, has already held kickoff events at Madison County High School, Madison County Central School and Pinetta Elementary. With the slogan, “Orange You Glad You’re Not a Bully,” the theme color is, of course, orange, and the accompanying tee shirts are bright orange, with the anti-bullying message in black print.
The committee has been meeting every week on Tuesday mornings to plan their awareness event for the Saturday morning before Halloween. At their Oct. 4 meeting, they already had several ideas for “Walk, Run, Roll Against Bullying,” to be held Oct. 29 from 10 a.m. until noon at Lake Frances.
Whether the people come to participate in the “fun-run” races (walking, running and bicycling laps around the lake), or just want to watch and cheer other people on, the committee wanted to make sure that there would be something for everyone and that the anti-bullying message reached their audience.
So far, there have been discussions of bounce houses, funnel cakes and face-painting for the little ones, as well as help from student volunteer groups, including skits from school drama clubs. Committee members have also been talking to several vendors for food and entertainment.
There were also several ideas for flyers and other ways of publicizing the event and getting parents and townspeople out to Lake Frances on that Saturday morning before Halloween.
So far, two people have agreed to be the main speakers for the event: David Jonas and Alan Anderson, two of the people featured in Merv Mattair’s book, “Word From My Kings and Queens: Overcoming Seemingly Insurmountable Odds.” The two men have personal experience with bullying, from opposite sides of the issue, and will briefly share some of their insights.
On Wednesday, Oct. 12, many Madison students will wear their bright orange anti-bullying tee shirts to school to show support and call attention to the “Walk, Run, Roll Against Bullying” event at the lake. “Every place I have ever been, bullying has been a problem,” said Tookes.
“Every place I’ve ever been, parents have wanted to talk to me about it.”
For more information, or to volunteer your time and talent to help make the event a success, contact Denise Robinson, (850) 973-5192 ext. 201.