Did you see an unusual number of people wearing orange yesterday?
That's because Wednesday, Oct. 21, was Menlo Park's first celebration of Unity Day, part of a national campaign to combat bullying.
The orange garb is the culmination of a month-long anti-bullying campaign that began Oct. 6, when Menlo Park's Mayor Catherine Carlton read a proclamation denouncing bullying in Menlo Park.
The proclamation said that bullying is the most common form of violence, and is one that affects hundreds of Menlo Park children, adolescents and adults annually. It also established October as anti-bullying month and Oct. 21 as Unity Day.
The city-wide campaign against bullying, Ms. Carlton said, held personal significance for her.
"I was bullied when I was a kid. I think a lot of people are," she said.
She added that she has also met two California parents whose children have died by suicide linked to bullying.
"That obviously is extreme," she said, "but (bullying) goes on in even the best of schools."
While at a recent conference for mayors, she learned of a nationwide movement for mayors to combat bullying. She signed on to the campaign, and now Menlo Park is one of 32 cities in California and over 200 U.S. cities whose mayor has pledged to host screenings of the film "Bully" and encourage bullying prevention actions.
These actions include:
● Announcing October as Anti-Bullying Month in Menlo Park.
● Setting up voting boxes for kids to nominate each other for standing up against bullies. "That way kids again can identify amongst themselves who's done good behavior," said Ms. Carlton.
● Screening the film "Bully." According to Ms. Carlton, Menlo Park will host a screening of the film Bully, along with a discussion with the film's director, Lee Hirsch, and will be sponsored by Facebook. The date and location are yet to be determined.
● Celebrating Unity Day, Oct. 21, launched by PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center in 2011. This includes distributing orange wristbands and posters and wearing orange in solidarity with victims of bullying.
"There's a lot of research to show that bullying affects kids academically, and leaves scars that affect people the rest of their lives," Ms. Carlton said.
In addition to these bullying prevention steps, Ms. Carlton said, she also recognized the work of local anti-bullying advocate Kris Quintana, who, along with her husband, Rich, have worked for the past seven to eight years to host workshops in schools and through Kuk Sool Won, the martial arts school they co-own, to support kids through their struggles with bullies.
According to Mr. Quintana, bullying can begin with children as young as kindergartners. Many of his students say they are bullied.
"It's amazing how many of our students, when they first come to us, come because they're getting bullied in school," he said.
These workshops, he said, combine information with interactive role playing and are offered for free thanks to a nonprofit called Martial Arts Against Bullying, which covers material costs.
The workshop teaches not only strategies for kids being bullied but also those who witness bullying.
"It's for everyone," he said, but added that parental attendance is required for children under age 9 and encouraged for kids up to 16.
Two upcoming workshops will be held Nov. 6 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Sequoia Room of the Arrillaga Family Recreation Center in Burgess Park (700 Alma St.) and Nov. 13 at the same time and location. Registration is encouraged.