The advent of “Unity Day” as a national focus upon the issue of bullying in schools is a product of the Minnesota Parent Training and Information Center's PACER project, established in 1976.
The advent of “Unity Day” as a national focus upon the issue of bullying in schools is a product of the Minnesota Parent Training and Information Center’s PACER project, established in 1976.
The nationwide observance happens today, October 25, as a reminder that school districts like the Hope Public Schools view bullying as unacceptable behavior. Unity Day is characterized by participants wearing orange on October 25 to show opposition to bullying.
“Orange provides a powerful, visually compelling expression of solidarity,” Paula Goldberg, executive director of the PACER Center said. “When hundreds of individuals in a school or organization wear orange, the vibrant statement becomes a conversation starter, sending the unified message to kids to know that they are not alone.”
“Hope Public Schools recognizes the need for kids to feel accepted and comfortable around their peers,” HPS Superintendent Bobby Hart said.
Bullying is a specific behavior addressed in the HPS District Handbook which is made available to each student and any patron of the district who requests a copy.
“We stand ready to work with students, parents, community members and all other stakeholders to eliminate bullying in our society,” Hart said.
Bullying conduct falls under three particular sections of the HPS handbook, including Prohibited Conduct (4.18), Student Assault or Battery (4.21) and Bullying (4.43).
The Student Discipline (4.17) section of the handbook addresses the various levels of responsibility and accountability for responses to student conduct.
“The Hope Board of Education has a responsibility to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the District’s students and employees,” the handbook states. “To help maintain a safe environment conducive to high student achievement, the Board establishes policies necessary to regular student behavior to promote an orderly school environment that is respectful of the rights of others and ensures the uniform enforcement of student discipline.”
Prohibited student conduct under the handbook includes bullying specifically, which is punishable at a minimum with parental contact and three days of immediate in-school suspension, and at a maximum by recommendation for expulsion from school. Equivalent prohibited student conduct includes, “Engaging in behavior to taunt, degrade, or ridicule another person on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, or disability” and “Hazing, or aiding in the hazing of another student.”
The former may result in either three days of in-school suspension or recommendation for expulsion, and the latter may result in five days of out-of-school suspension or recommendation for expulsion.
Student assault or battery may be associated with bullying and includes but is not limited to fighting, racial, ethnic, religious, or sexual slurs, according to the handbook (4.21). Penalties may include parental contact with five days of out-of-school suspension and five days in-school suspension; or, recommendation for expulsion.
“Bullying means the intentional harassment, intimidation, humiliation, ridicule, defamation, or threat or incitement of violence by a student against another student or public school employee by a written, verbal, electronic, or physical act that may address an attribute of the other student, public school employee, or person with whom the other student or public school employee is associated and that causes or creates actual or reasonably foreseeable:
• Physical harm to a public school employee or student or damage to the public school employee’s or student’s property;
• Substantial interference with a student’s education or with a public school employee’s role in education;
• A hostile educational environment for one (1) or more students or public school employees due to the severity, persistence, or pervasiveness of the act; or
• Substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the school or educational environment.”
Examples under the definition are outlined in the district handbook.
The PACER Unity Day program focuses emphasis upon bullying as one of the key mandates of the more than 30 programs for parents, students, professionals and other parent organizations which it operates.
“More than one of every five school-aged children report being bullied,” Julie Hertzog, director of the PACER National Bullying Prevention Center, notes. “It’s important these students know they are not alone and that they have the right to feel safe.”