Bullying is an issue that has plagued schools not just in Maine, but across the country. Nationwide, approximately 160,000 children stay home from school each day to avoid being bullied, and the effects can be lifelong and even tragic. Most of us remember witnessing bullying or even ourselves being the target of bullying at some point in our lives. Bullying, and now particularly cyberbullying, is a dangerous trend in our schools that has of late resulted in fatal consequences.
Gov. Paul LePage recently signed a proclamation that both Rep. Terry Morrison of South Portland and I put forward. It designates October as Bullying Prevention Month. The first step to combating bullying is to raise awareness for the fact it takes place, recognize the signs and help provide tools for preventative measures.
This issue is personal for me. Being different in school never seems like a good trait at the time, but you later discover it’s the best thing about you. As someone who has been bullied in the past for being unique, I’ve found that the more self-confident you are, the less the opinions or words of others matter. It might sound hokey to think you can combat negativity being thrown at you with positivity, but in my personal experience, ignoring the noise around you and focusing on being the best you, you can possibly be, helps negate others who try to bring you down. Empowering young people might be great for some, but I also recognize that others also need much more than that.
Sen. Linda Valentino has been instrumental in bullying legislation over the years and has fought hard to keep our kids safe in our schools. With that said, no one bill or law can eradicate bullying. There is always going to be that one bad apple in the bunch that tries to project his or her insecurities onto someone else. It’s going to take each and every one of us to do our part to create a culture where bullying is not acceptable. I don’t want to more child commit suicide because of being tormented online or at school. Our society is better than that. We can and will do better. This walk aims to bring people together to rally around this vital cause.
The walk is a minimum of $25 for each adult, $15 for children and students. The walk will take place on the beautiful Eastern Trail beginning at Thornton Academy Middle School this Sunday, Oct. 6 at 9 a.m.
After the walk we will have a Family Fun Day. Activities will include a concert with Maine Steiners, The Veayo Twins, Rebecca Reed, Suzie Stauble Pepper and other talented performers, with more than 30 vendors, games and activities. Included will be Maine Children’s Authors, story walks and visits from many special guests. We will also read the gubernatorial proclamation.
Deb Landry and others from the Crossroads organization have been amazing to work with in organizing this walk. You can tell when someone’s heart is in something for the right reasons and our first Unite Against Bullying ME Walk, Run, or Roll is a direct byproduct of a deep level of understanding and caring.
I hope to see you all there.
Justin Chenette is the state representative for Saco. You follow his updates at www.justinchenette.com and via facebook.com/justinforsaco.
Beyond the Headlines
Weekly Column featured in The Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier Newspaper by Rep. Justin Chenette of Saco