October is Bullying Prevention Month

October is Bullying Prevention Month

When I cast the net for October on my favorite search engine a few weeks ago, I was reminded that in October, among other things, we celebrate National Bullying Prevention Month and focus activities and formation on Bullying Prevention. What can you do this month and beyond to bring Bullying Prevention education and measures to your community and congregation? Who in your community is engaging in anti-bullying awareness activities, education, etc.?

A Story:
Their mom was just getting ready to step out of the door for the day. They were both in school and she would work, run a few errands, catch up with them at dinner. Take-out tonight, Mom wondered?  As she approached her car, the phone rang. It was the vice-principal of the high school her youngest attended. Can you come in? Something has taken place this morning and we'd like you and your husband here, if possible. Of course her mind went to health and safety matters... are they alright?  She was assured they were physically fine, but there had been an incident and parental presence and support were important.  Mind and heart racing, she called their Dad and he said he'd meet her there in 20 minutes.  No time to loose, she got into the car and headed straight for the campus.

When she arrived, she was buzzed into the building and headed straight for the administrative offices. She remembers thinking that it was a blessing to have a new building where the offices were conveniently located in close proximity to the main entrance! Mom felt she couldn't get there fast enough. How fortunate they were.  But what's wrong? She had imagined any number of unhelpful possibilities on the ride to the school.

Greeted by the vice-principal as her arrival was announced, she was taken to a small conference room nearby. There her child sat, looking confused and bewildered through tear stained eyes.  An immediate embrace brought more tears. Each of them quietly holding tight to one another. Then Dad arrived. 

They were all seated and the administrator began. "This morning your child's locker was emptied by some of our students. Many personal things were dumped into the toilet in the bathroom.  We are working to identify the youth involved but your child doesn't want to share who they suspect...This is an incident of a very serious nature and we take it very seriously. But honestly, we may never fully resolve it if your child isn't forthcoming..."

This story and others of incidents like it are repeated hundreds of times each day throughout our communities. They were in the showers after practice and team members took their things. They were in study hall and when the teacher stepped out, someone threw an object. They were in the bathroom stall and someone threw open the door and snapped a pic, posting it to social media. Yet bullying behaviors are not just a problem for our educational institutions, they are a challenge for us all in many contexts in many ways.

As partners in creating safe environments, our role in the faith community and in ministry is obvious. We must support all God's children of any age and confront bullying in it's many forms. We are called to actively participate in and work as good community partners in anti-bullying awareness and education. 

In Long Beach, CA., during the 29th General Synod of the United Church of Christ a resolution Against Bullying and Discrimination  was brought to the gathered church and passed prevailing upon each covenant member church of our denomination across the nation to, in part, "Support the rights of students to attend  schools that are safe and free from violence, harassment, bullying and discrimination; and..." You can find the entire resolution here. Or on pages 60-62 of the document, The Minutes of the Twenty-Ninth General Synod, Long Beach, CA June 28-July 2, 2013 for greater context of the resolution within the meeting.

What to do?  Make this work an important focus of your safe environments practices. Actively incorporate it organically when considering and exploring values, making choices, love for neighbor and other faith based considerations for folks of all ages in formational activities. 

Focus on the topic in the month of October,  creating engagements for folks to come together and consider the topic, advocacy, and community engagement. Actively doing this work is one aspect of the role of our discipleship! 

Here are links to some related resources. Reach out to members of your Discipleship Team for further guidance and support if we can be of assistance. Dedicate yourselves to incorporating anti-bullying strategies and confronting bullying at every opportunity! Together, we can make a difference.


Karen E. Ziel

Karen Ziel supports Christian Educators and faith formation leaders with consultation, training, resources and programs. She has guided the development of the Leadership Studio at United Church Center, a communications and workshop facility for ...

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