By Gary J. Askin
I got lost last weekend in Michigan. I’m over fifty now so getting lost trying to find a hockey rink around Detroit, isn’t surprising. While searching for it, I ended up passing Romulus High School.
On their front lawn I noticed a massive wave of bright yellow flags stuck in the ground on the school property. There were hundreds or maybe even thousands of them waving in the wind, demanding attention.
They covered the property and even at a distance were impossible to miss.
“Check this out” I said having no clue what the occasion was.
As I slowed I read a banner amidst the yellow flags that said in large letters
The realization of this message hit me like a truck and I immediately felt the power this image intended to convey. This was no celebration.
I assumed that each flag represented a victim of bullying. I later discovered it was worse than that. I felt an immediate rush of sadness and empathy for those who have suffered at the hands of bullies .
I circled around to get a closer look.
“By the time you read this another student will be bullied” the sign read.
It further explained that over 2 million students are bullied every year in America. The last line shocked me even more. That each flag represented
“ just under 3000 children”.
The flags were too numerous to count. The fact that each one represented 3000 child victims really struck me as to how pervasive and prevalent, bullying is.
As a police officer, I have spent much of my career fighting for victims, investigating those who hurt, harass and exploit. Yet now, I wished I could have done more. This was an image of thousands of children asking for help. I felt ashamed that we as adults couldn’t do more to protect our youth from this type of abuse.Later that day, I did some checking and found the Romulus High School web site that explained the program. I learned that bullying is still a growing epidemic and that each day 160,000 students skip school because they don’t feel safe.
Much has been written on bullying in today’s social media era. Rick Mercer once ranted that adults frequently treat Anti Bullying Week like National Nutrition Week and just ignore it. It’s bad enough that kids feel the wrath of their tormentors for eight hours at school but now come home for even more late night social media abuse. As Mercer says
“the greatest thing about being an adult is that no matter how bad things get, you never have to back to Grade 9 ever again”
I hope this campaign develops some social media traction as this message speaks volumes without the “in your face” “shock and awe” delivery that accompany many similar campaigns.
Waterloo Region has seen its share of anti bullying campaigns. Finding one that continually resonates with the public is always a challenge. Finding one that our kids don’t think is lame is even tougher.
The Romulus High School web site also offered great tips for bullies and the bullied.
They also offer a pledge, which the signor agrees to
1) Stop being part of the problem
2) Stand up to people that are making others feel uncomfortable
3) Support people that may be a victim of bullying.
Madison Small, Jawann Gaskin and organizers from Romulus High School should be proud of their efforts and know that they are making a difference. Without question they accomplished what they set out to do; create awareness about bullying.
Their simple, direct message contained within such a powerful visual image caused me to explore the topic, visit their school web site and write this article -which I hope creates even more awareness.
I got lost last weekend in Michigan but I found Romulus High School. I also found a school committed to making systemic change to a world wide problem.
With just a quick glance this campaign took me back to grade nine, reminded me how widespread bullying is and encouraged me to take action.
Ps. November 17-23’rd is bullying awareness week in Canada. (Don’t treat it like Nutrition Week)