On Oct. 1, the common area of Marana High School was filled with hundreds of students all dressed in blue. The sounds of popping balloons echoed off the walls, students laughed and ate ice cream all while music blasted through speakers.
While it appeared to be a celebration, the cause the students were gathering for is very serious. The Marana students were coming together to recognize the fact that October is Anti-Bullying Awareness Month.
Marana High School students rallied, stomped on blue balloons and came together as a school to show their support for stomping out bullying. Inside each of the balloons, which read “Stomp out Bullying” were notes of encouragement.
Various clubs from the school set up booths where they gave students stickers, pins, and bracelets. Students also signed pieces of paper symbolically showing they will pledge to not bully anyone and stand up for someone if they are seen being bullied. Other clubs wrote words and names they have been called on their arms and legs to show other students that the names stick with them.
Sarah Parish, who is a special education teacher and the coordinator for the Safe and Supportive School’s student committee, said through a state grant, the school focused money towards bullying awareness in an attempt to eliminate it from the school.
Bullying is being taken seriously by all school districts, as the numbers on the state and national level continue to increase each year.
In 2010-11, more than 18,000 safety incidents ranging from bullying to threats of intimidation were reported by Arizona schools.
“Children need to feel safe in schools in order for them to be productive and learn in the classroom,” said Arizona State Superintendent John Huppenthal. “No child should feel threatened or intimidated.”
According to a recent Arizona Youth Risk Behavior Survey, students who reported having been bullied or harassed on school grounds increased from 25 percent to 31 percent.
At the school, during lunch, with the filled common area, Parish enjoyed seeing something she didn’t normally see.
“Normally what happens at lunch is you don’t see this,” she said. “You see individual groups going in individual corners, sitting with themselves. We wanted to create something where everybody had to be together at one time and celebrate our campus.”
In years past, bullying wasn’t really a topic students and teachers talked about. Now, it is a subject that is out in the open for kids to openly talk about.
“We want to teach kids and adults about bullying to recognize bullying and to stop it,” said Parish.
Besides bullying in person, teachers and administrators have also had to start addressing the impact cyber bullying has had on students over the last few years.
There were several bills in the Arizona Legislature last year that would have required schools to more strictly address cyber-bullying, however, both stalled in committees.