During the last couple of days something I have always taken to heart and invested a lot of time into has reappeared to draw me back in. My personal focus has taken many different paths in the last few years and I have various causes I have chosen to put my energy and effort into at any given time. But one specific cause that started with years ago has reappeared in a way that has sparked my attention and ongoing commitment, yet again…granted, I never gave up on it – it has always been a priority – but my curiosity and commitment has again been renewed after this week. (we have go through phases like that, right?)
If you read back (in this sparsely populated blog of mine) you will find a number of posts about bullying. I started my trek as a bullying advocate when my oldest was very young. While my kids were not directly affected, I despised what I heard kids saying to other kids and I really felt for those kids who were unable to advocate for themselves. So the anti-bully movement became a passion of mine as I worked to bring attention to it and attempt to better the environment for all kids in schools. My efforts have evolved some, just as you would expect. My cause has changed tone and gone from “anti-bully” to “spreading kindness” – although I do feel they are one in the same.
After talking with someone who sought me out for some advice on the topic this week, she pointed out that some parents are effected differently by the phrase “bully” than they are the word “unkind”. And I would agree with that statement whole heartedly. But regardless of the terms being used to describe the situation she (and so many others) are dealing with, it all comes down to someone being unkind to someone else – which is not okay – ever.
So, back to my original point…you can all imagine my excitement when I saw the announcement that came out yesterday! Yesterday, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) announced his co-sponsorship, with Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), of the bipartisan legislation to prevent bullying and harassment in schools! The Safe Schools Improvement Act would require schools and districts that receive federal funding to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, encouraging them to implement effective prevention programs to respond to incidents of bullying and harassment. How excited was I knowing that a Senator from my own state is taking this on at this level? This is a huge step in a direction to protect all children in a place where they should feel completely safe – but many do not.
As someone who has spoken out about bullying and stood up to the issue for a number of years, I have heard so many stories (from friends and strangers) that have broken my heart to pieces. In turn, I have heard stories of renewed kindness that have changed social cultures in environments that you would never believe could happen, too. It’s a topic that reaches the depths of our souls and asks for our strongest of emotions as we try to stand up for something that we all know to be right, but sometimes we just don’t want to be the one who calls it out, brings it up or stands up to the drama.
So, I challenge you to speak up, take a stand and remember to keep kindness in every day of your life. Stand up for childhood, safe learning environments and emotional security for kids. Call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to sign on to support something that will help protect kids each and every day. It may not be your kid that is affected – but they are someone’s daughter, son, grandchild, niece, nephew or friend. So stand up for those that cannot stand up for themselves – make your voice heard. And if not to advocate for legislation – make yourself heard in the places that matter most to you. Your schools, your churches, your neighborhoods and even work. Speak out, stand up and be heard! What good is a voice if you don’t use it – and more importantly, if you don’t use it for good?
I will leave you with a statement of facts presented by Senator Kirk on his announcement on February 28, 2013: “Bullying affects an estimated one out of every three students in America ages 12-18 years, and can have a significant impact on school engagement and academic achievement,” said Senator Kirk. “I am proud to join with Senator Casey to reintroduce the Safe Schools Improvement Act to help schools prevent bullying before it starts and to provide guidance supporting proper behavior. I hope we can help solve the issue of bullying because every child deserves a safe environment, free of harassment, in which they can learn.”