By Jim E. Winburn
The California State Legislature just passed a statewide Bullying Prevention Day – and not a day-too soon. Bullying has become endemic in both the school setting as well as cyberspace.
This state resolution for a day of observance and action comes at a time when it is most needed – when people, adults in particular, are becoming increasingly permissive in words and actions that demean others.
Take for example Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Leonardo voice-over celeb Jason Biggs who should be setting an example for kids as an adult, but who has chosen to participate in cyber bullying toward Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann.
Nickelodeon, headquartered in New York, may have refused to go on the record regarding Mr. Biggs’ misogynist statements made on the social media network Twitter.com, but there are folks closer to home who have refused to remain silent on this issue.
Ten-year-old San Gabriel student Gerry Orz is a survivor of bullies, and he is not keeping quiet on the issue. He is the heart behind the California State Legislature resolution passed on Aug. 31 that calls for a California Bullying Prevention Day on Dec. 12, 2012.
However, this day of action organized by Gerry advocates a day of silence to declare the safety of a school environment as a priority for students. “I wanted to make a difference and turn my bad experience into an opportunity, and this is where I am now,” he said.
As he explains on his website, www.gerryorz.com, Gerry’s Bullying Prevention Day asks people to think of those who cannot speak for themselves – but to especially reflect and understand what it may feel like to be in their shoes for a single day. According to Gerry, “If we all try – that would be the last day on the planet where people are mistreating their own kind.”
He has a designed a clever sign to be attached to the clothes of those who are able to participate in a daylong vigil of silence on Dec. 12. The sign, which may be printed from his website, reads: “Please forgive me for not speaking. I am keeping silence for all of those that don’t have a voice. Our silence is a way of saying ‘NO!’ to bullying, discrimination and abuse.”
Gerry has suggested other ways to help prevent bullying in schools if people are not able to participate in a daylong act of silence. One suggestion he has is for parents to talk to their children, or teachers to their students, about Bullying Prevention Day and what to do about it.
But Gerry’s job is far from done after orchestrating his 12/12/12 Bullying Prevention Day. The young boy has further ambitions of putting an end to bullying in the school environment. In an email, Gerry has informed this reporter that he is starting his own nonprofit organization called Kids Resource that will hopes to host Kids Resource clubs in schools “to inspire others to do good and follow their dreams regardless of their age,” he said.
Gerry’s goal for his organization is to host multiple programs in an effort to end bullying for students as early as elementary school.
School bullying is identified in the resolution’s fact sheet as a problematic behavior among adolescents, affecting school achievement, pro-social skills, and psychological wellbeing for both victims and perpetrators. It also notes that bullying has been on the rise among youth “with studies nationally suggesting that 28 percent of students were bullied at school and six percent were cyber bullied,” according to the fact sheet.
According to the authors of the resolution, prevention of bullying requires coordination and understanding. And in schools where there have been bullying programs, bullying has been reduced by 50 percent.
The California State Legislature resolution for Gerry’s California Bullying Prevention Day was introduced by Senator Carol Liu on Jun. 26. According to Senate Concurrent Resolution 100, this Bullying Prevention Day recognizes the need for individuals, schools, communities, businesses, local governments, and the state to take action on behalf of bullying prevention in California.
“This resolution was inspired by my constituent, writer, actor, director, and producer, Gerry Orz,” said Liu. “Gerry was nine when he created the film called ‘Day of Silence.’ In honor of this day, I ask each school in my senate district to tell their students about bullying awareness day and to have 12 seconds of silence at noon in honor of victims of bullying.”