October is National Bullying Prevention Month and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton’s wife, Nicole Stanton, has started Stop Bullying AZ initiatives to not only bring awareness of the issue but also to get schools and bystanders to speak up when it occurs in schools.
Hula’s Modern Tiki, located on Central and Highland avenues, is also participating in the initiative and on every Monday in October it will donate 10 percent of its sales to Stop Bullying AZ.
Nicole Stanton brought together educators, school leaders and other educational resources from Arizona and across the country to an anti-bullying summit Friday at ASU’s Tempe campus to discuss how to combat the issue.
The anti-bullying summit featured expert Dan Olweus from Clemson University as the key note speaker to discuss the role of the bystander on bullying prevention. The summit had workshops that taught anti-bullying strategies to educators to bring back to their schools to implement for their students.
Stanton not only wants to provide the tools to teachers, students and parents to stop bullying but also recognizes that the bullies cannot be forgotten either.
“I want to first raise the awareness of bullying,” she said. “Unfortunately there are still people out there who believe that it’s just kids being kids. I want to provide education to parents, teachers and kids. We’re not trying to neglect the bully either because they need help, too.”
Stanton also said current school policies are not working. Most schools have their own ways to deal with this issue but Stanton believes that these policies have not been successful in the past and therefore need to change.
“A lot of school policies that I’ve looked at have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying and that sounds great, but in practice it actually dissuades students from reporting their peers,” she said.
Phoenix Union High School Superintendent Kent Scribner has also been supportive of the First Lady of Phoenix’s initiative to combat bullying in public schools.
“Differences should be celebrated — not ridiculed,” Scribner said, adding that a third of all students were bullied in school this year. He agrees with Stanton that the zero-tolerance policy for bullying has not been effective in schools.
“The most effective strategy is to engage the bystander and our focus is to exude respect for self and for others,” he said.
This month has seen headlines across the country that include bullying from the high school level to grown adults.
Michigan high school sophomore Whitney Kropp received national attention when she was nominated homecoming royalty as a prank, but attended the homecoming game and received overwhelming support from the community. In Wisconsin, CBS WKBT news anchor Jennifer Livingston also made headlines when she responded on air to an email from a viewer criticizing her weight.
Stanton said she will reach out to the mayors’ wives in Tucson, Tempe and Mesa to make her program a statewide initiative.
“Hopefully we can then expand it to a platform nationwide,” she said.
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Correction: Oct. 9, 2012
An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Whitney Kropp was nominated homecoming queen. Kropp was nominated homecoming royalty.