by Kofi Biney
A child is bullied every seven minutes, and 85 percent of the time no one steps in to help.
It’s a statistic driving the Cartoon Network’s “Stop Bullying: Speak Up” initiative. At Harding Middle School on Wednesday, the network's president, Stuart Snyder, joined U.S. Sen. Bob Casey in a flag-raising ceremony to kick off the national campaign to empower kids to stand up to bullying.
About 500 middle school students, Harding principal Michael Calderone, teachers, and education dignitaries packed the school auditorium to hear about the campaign. Participating schools will display a flag bearing the campaign's slogan, "Stop Bullying: Speak Up,” as a sign that adults will act once they become aware that bullying is taking place. Harding is the first school to fly the flag and was chosen as the site to hold the official launch because of its active anti-bullying program.
“Harding is a good choice for this assembly because we have things that other middle schools don’t, such as the Philadelphia Art and Education Partnership and the Chicks After School Program,” said 7th grader Raina Mills, president of the school's student council.
Both are afterschool programs that Harding students participate in to help promote a positive school climate.
This spring, Cartoon Network will send flags and bullying prevention toolkits to 2,000 middle and elementary schools through a partnership it has with the American Federation of Teachers and the Korean technology giant LG Electronics.
Synder said the idea for a flag-raising campaign came a few years ago when children from across the country contacted the network about the subject of bullying.
“Kids told Cartoon Network that bullying was an important issue and that they could use Cartoon Network’s help,” Snyder said.
Since then, the network has continued to build on the initiative by partnering with Facebook to produce an app that students can access to sign a pledge to stop bullying, producing television public service announcements about bullying, and creating a documentary with an introduction from President Obama about the topic.
Casey, for his part, is re-introducing the Safe Schools Improvement Act to help ensure that every child receives a quality education that builds self-confidence.
“We’re not just talking about bullying, but how to create a safer school in general,” Casey said.
Snyder added that Stop Bullying: Speak Up "is more than just a slogan. It’s about a way of life -- getting students to engage in a dialogue about bullying that leads to a cultural shift.”
Kofi Biney is an intern at the Notebook.