By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer
Whittier Elementary School was a sea of orange on Wednesday as students and staff throughout the school and district joined together to celebrate Unity Day.
“We try to bring awareness out,” Whittier Elementary School Counselor Karla Unke said. “We say to the kids ‘think about how many in the school might be bullies, five? There are 70 of you who can take back your school.’”
Unity Day is celebrated to end bullying and support those who are bullied. The day is supported by Minneapolis- based PACER Center, a parent training and information center for families of children and youth with all disabilities from birth through 21 years old.
Julie Hertzog, director of PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, estimates nearly 13 million or one-third of all school-aged children are bullied each year.
Counselors from Bluff, Jefferson and Whittier Elementary schools came together last week to plan events leading up to Unity Day that would support their charge to prevent bullying.
The school counselors have done a bully prevention for years, but this is the first time they participated in Unity Day. Part of the unit on bullying covers the different strategies kids can use to combat the harmful act.
“It (Unity Day) goes right along with what we’re teaching in our problem-solving bully prevention unit,” Jefferson Elementary School counselor Julie Knutson said.
Unke said the schools try to be as proactive as possible in order to combat bullying, but with the rise in technology, it can be difficult for kids to escape it.
“It can come in all different forms. Kids in some cases can never feel safe,” Unke said.
Participation in Unity Day is another preventive measure, Knutson said.
Since Monday, school announcements have posed questions about bullying for discussion in the classrooms. Unke said the student response was very positive.
Questions such as how students can end bullying when they see it and would you invite a target to take part in activities with you will be asked.
“We’ve had students share stories or ask what they should do, it’s been great,” Unke said.
Students have also nearly filled a banner with their signatures to show thier support to end bullying.
“I’ve heard at least one to two comments a day on how kids have seen bystanders stepping in to stop something negative they hear,” Unke said. “I think there’s been an awareness made and awareness is the first step.”