With studies showing one in five students nationwide reporting being bullied, a Holtville school on Oct. 23 participated in the National Bullying Prevention Month founded in 2006 by the Minneapolis-based organization PACER.
Tiffany Terrill, Finley Elementary School counselor, helped organize the school’s 550 students to place their palm prints on an orange poster to pledge their commitment to prevent bullying. The gesture occurred at the Unity Tree at the school playground during recess.
Unity Day launched by PACER urges wearing orange in support of bullying prevention.
"We want to make sure our students make everybody feel accepted and that they all have a friend," said Terrill. "We have county officials visiting the schools at recess and making certain all students have a friend to play with."
Students gathered around Alex Silva, Holtville fire chief, and Marco Flores and Joshua Rodriguez, city firefighters, to sign a poster with the motto: “I choose to be a buddy and not a bully.”
"I think it's a good thing to celebrate and it's a day we get to wear orange," said Eva Legaspi, a fifth-grade student.
Andrew Garewal, her classmate, explained it was important to be nice and help others.
"I would stop a person from doing any bullying and report them to the principal," said Andrew.
Silva recalled seeing a television public-service announcement regarding Unity Day and said he asked the Holtville school district to participate.
"All the schools are doing it and while it’s true some of these kids are young, we wanted to start them early and get kids accustomed to a new norm; kindness," said Silva.
It was Silva’s second visit to the school in two days. On Oct. 22, he arrived with firefighters to alert students about ways to prevent fires and also handed out T-shirts at Finley and other Holtville schools, 150 in all. They went to those students who have a history of kind acts and those nominated by teachers.
Adan Garcia, a kindergartner, said he knew precisely what Unity Day was all about.
"Don't be mean and if somebody falls down at the playground, help them up," said Adan.
Terrill recited from the PACER platform regarding Unity Day. It read in part: “Wear orange for a message of hope and support, to color our nation and even the world, visibly showing our society believes no child should ever experience bullying.”
Lupita Perez, Finley principal, noted because October is bullying prevention month it is important to communicate the message to students, teachers, parents and the community.
“We're doing everything we can to prevent bullying and make students aware of being tolerant and to include others in all their activities," she said.