Denton – October is National Bullying Prevention Month.  CASA of Caroline has partnered with Character Counts Mid-Shore, Caroline County Family YMCA and Caroline County Public Schools to raise awareness around prevention of bullying and cyberbullying.  “Character Counts Mid Shore is pleased to partner with these like-minded organizations in this effort. The anti-bullying message that this coalition of partners is sharing — that of kindness, empathy, and personal accountability — is critical for young people. This has never been more true than during the current public health crisis, where all of us, young and old alike, are particularly in need of a caring and unified community.”, said Lauren Weber, Executive Director of Character Counts Mid Shore. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, more than one out of every five students will be bullied this year.  Students who are bullied are more likely to experience low self-esteem and isolation, perform poorly in school, have few friends in school, have a negative view of school, experience physical symptoms (such as headaches, stomachaches, or problems sleeping), and to experience mental health issues (such as depression, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety).  Cara Calloway, Mental Health Coordinator for CCPS, says, “The emotional effects of bullying can last into adulthood for both the victim and the bully, impacting functioning in family, community, and work settings.  Reporting, swift intervention, and provision of ongoing support and education to all involved is critical to the mental health and emotional safety of students.” Bullying occurs in many forms.  It can be pushing, shoving, hitting, name calling, making fun of, laughing at/ridiculing and excluding someone.  Cyberbullying has become more prevalent in recent years and especially during the pandemic. It is when you torment, threaten, harass or humiliate someone on the internet, cell phone or through some other form of digital media.  This is probably happening to someone you know and care about right now. Unfortunately, when bullying is learned at an early age, it often continues into adulthood.  Amy Horne, Director of Outreach and Partnerships at CASA of Caroline says, “It was important for this coalition to come together to promote the nationwide Bullying Prevention campaign in our schools and encourage students and their families to talk about it.  CASA of Caroline strives to support healthy families and happy childhoods and we believe an open discussion about this subject is critical for both of those.”  People who enjoy mutually supportive relationships with their family members are more likely to confide in each other, seek help when life becomes difficult, and have a healthy family environment. Angel Perez, Program Coordinator for Caroline Mentoring Project at Caroline Family YMCA noted how important this is for families of all nationalities and ties in with the YMCA’s recent “Welcoming Week: Creating Home Together”.  He says, “Our Welcoming Week in September was a celebration of diversity in our community and encourages respect and solidarity.  We joined this coalition because bullying has no place in a welcoming community like ours.” Calloway added that bullying in any form is not tolerated in Caroline County Public Schools.  “We believe that all students should feel welcomed, supported, and safe in their school environment.” The coalition has developed several activities for all CCPS students and families.  All students are encouraged to take a pledge to stand against bullying and cyberbullying.  There will also be a Bullying Prevention Poster Contest which will run from Monday, September 21 through Friday, October 9.  The guidelines will be distributed to all CCPS students through their art teachers.  The poster entries will be displayed in storefronts in downtown Denton.  CCPS families and Caroline County residents are encouraged to walk around downtown Denton to view the poster entries and vote for their favorite. Sadly, bullying and cyberbullying do occur so what should you do if you or someone you know is the victim of bullying?  “We strongly encourage anyone concerned about bullying to report it to a teacher or administrator immediately.  Reports can be made in person, by telephone, or on the “Bullying, Harassment & Intimidation Form” available on the CCPS website under forms.”, according to Calloway.  There are many other online resources such as www.stopbullying.gov. This is an important issue for families, students and schools.  Discussion of bullying and cyberbullying prevention will continue throughout the year, especially when CCPS students work on their PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention Supports).  In addition to the activities in October, CCPS is offering an opportunity for the Anti-bullying discussion to continue in November.  Calloway announced, “We are partnering with Mid-Shore Behavioral Health to sponsor a virtual screening and panel discussion on the film “Upstanders,” a documentary on resilience and the power of connection to end bullying.  The screening will be held on November 5, 2020 from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m., and is geared toward middle and high school-aged youth and their parents.  A registration link is available on the Mid-Shore Behavioral Health website or Facebook page, and will be shared by CCPS as well.”. The goal of this campaign is to educate the CCPS community and all of Caroline County on the negative effects of bullying and cyberbullying.  By participating, students can help create a world without bullying through kindness, acceptance and inclusion, regardless of color, race, gender, popularity, athletic ability, intelligence, religion or nationality. Let’s all join together to end bullying, create a welcoming community and be Caroline Kind!!