As families in communities across the country are preparing for the new school year, it’s important to add conversations about bullying to your back to school checklist.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 1 in 3 students report being bullied during the school year which can lead to poor grades, increased and absenteeism from school.
But, bullying doesn’t only affect kids during school hours, it can also have very troubling and far reaching effects that include depression, self-harm and even suicide.
Because kids generally go to school with kids in their community, bullying extends beyond just a classroom issue—it’s a community issue, so it’s important for community members to learn about the different forms of bullying and create a dialogue and resources around the issue to ensure the kids feel safe and know exactly what to do when they experience or witness bullying.
Dominion Valley, a community managed by Associa’s Community Management Corporation branch, experienced the negative impact of bullying when a resident, 17-year old Payton Freeze, committed suicide as a result of bullying. In an effort to ensure that this community doesn’t lose another child to bullying—as the perpetrator or the victim, Payton’s family has created Payton’s Project—a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to fighting bullying. Read below to learn more about this organization and what your community can do to end bullying.
When tragedy struck the Freeze family, residents within the community immediately took action, creating the Freeze Bullying for Payton (FBFP) Facebook page and Payton’s Project, a 501(c)3 organization that will give away $18,000 in scholarships to rising seniors in 2016 – 2017.
In just a few short months, the Payton’s Project group has met with the Prince William County School Board as well as students who are affected by bullying, they have attended their local “Meet Your State Legislators Day” and they’re organizing a run to take place in Payton’s name in October 2016.
Here are 5 things you can learn from Dominion Valley’s efforts to help your community create a plan to fight bullying:
- Communicate: Open communication is important when speaking with kids about bullying because many instances of bullying go unreported. In order to create more dialogue about bullying, Payton’s Project communicated with students, fellow community members and they’re staying connected through social media. Using their platform helped them gain more awareness about their organization and efforts on their local news station.
- Take it to the streets: Find ways to partner with other community events. Along with Associa, Payton’s Project is participating in the annual National Night Out event to raise awareness throughout the community about bullying.
- Give back: In addition to raising awareness about bullying, Payton’s Project encourages kindness and positive interactions in students by providing $18,000 in scholarships to kids who exemplify these values. The organization also sells shirts to help fund these endeavors.
- Partner with the school board: Payton’s Place has partnered with not just their local school, but schools across their region to develop methods to erase bullying. Kids are bullied on a playground every 7 minutes and 85% of the time, there’s no intervention, so partnering with local schools to create a united front against bullying is key.
- Partner with local politicians: While there is no federal law against bullying, with the increase in bullying cases being reported and because of efforts like organizations like Payton’s Place, this may change and it’s important to work with your local politicians to make sure they understand your community’s needs. By attending the “Meet Your State Legislators Day,” Payton’s Place has let their leaders know that bullying is an important topic within the community and has opened the lines of communication so that they’re included when there’s an opportunity to discuss ways to make the community better.
To learn more about Payton's Project, visit http://paytonsproject.org/.