(Update 12:15 p.m. Monday, Oct. 7) — The rally Monday that was originally scheduled to take place at the Bernie Milton Pavilion has been moved indoors to the GIAC Gym, 301 W. Court St., Ithaca. 

TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. — Monday, Oct. 7, has been designated “Bullying Prevention Day” in Tompkins County. The dedicated day will highlight the need for local schools and organizations to work together to prevent bullying, an issue that impacts about 20% of high school students nationally.

Local residents will “#BlueUp” Monday as part of the World Day of Bullying Prevention. To mark the day, the Greater Ithaca Activities Center, The Sophie Fund and the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force are organizing a rally for 4:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 7 at the Bernie Milton Pavilion on the Ithaca Commons. (See update)

The day was designated with a proclamation Tuesday at Tompkins County Legislature. Kate Shanks-Booth, director of youth services in Tompkins County, said in a news release that a day dedicated to bullying prevention is an important step forward.

“The Tompkins County Youth Services Department deals with all the different municipalities and school districts that are encompassed within Tompkins County,” she said in a news release. “We hear from our partners at every level that bullying is a major area of concern, as the physical and emotional trauma experienced during these events lasts a lifetime. We are doing our part, working with Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force and other local partners to ensure that every youth in Tompkins County can thrive in life, work, and school without the negative impacts of all types of bullying.”

• Related: Task force brings community together to address bullying in local schools

The Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force includes government agencies, community organizations, parents and representatives from six school districts. It was formed this year to help curb bullying in local schools. It’s an issue that impacts about 19% of high school students nationally, and about 21.7% in New York, according to data from the National Youth Risk Behavior survey. According to an earlier report in The Ithaca Voice, the task force found that over the 2017–18 school year in Tompkins schools, there were 109 reports of discrimination, harassment and bullying and 20 incidents of cyberbullying.

Being bullied by peers is the most common form of abuse children face, and it can have long-term mental and physical health effects. At the same time, many children suffer in silence because they are reluctant to tell their parents or teachers, studies show.

The task force is calling on local schools to consider organizing activities Monday to observe Bullying Prevention Day, such as skits, speakers, assemblies, and other events to raise awareness about bullying.

In a news release from Task Force, Celia Clement, a longtime social worker and member of the Task Force, said students need to be the driving force in creating an inclusive culture. “We anticipate that providing these opportunities for education and dialogue will serve as a catalyst for students to take ownership in initiating Upstander leadership programs that will be responsive to the unique needs of their schools.”

An upstander is someone who does not stand by and will speak up to support a person who is being attacked or bullied. The Task Force sent materials to schools with ideas for activities and resources to encourage children to be upstanders.

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.