This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.
Unity - What does it mean to you? Can a group form cohesively without some underlying unity between them? Probably not, and they can’t bind together entirely by choice either. Unity is the reconciliation between what is instinctual and what is intentional within a group of people. Perhaps unity comes from the natural connection between people, and becoming mutually conscious of our connections is what we call unity. Can—and do—we choose unity, or is unity something that only happens when we look into the yearnings of others and find ourselves? No matter the answer, it is clear that unity has power.
PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center has been using the power of unity to to unite students, parents, teachers, and community members against bullying. They started and have been celebrating National Bullying Prevention Month each October since 2006, and in 2011 created Unity Day on October 9th. PACER (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights) is an organization, created in 1977, dedicated to helping improve the quality of life of disabled children and helping create a support system for parents with disabled children. In 2006 PACER created the National Bullying Prevention Center in response to concerns and fears of parents with disabled children who were bullied in school. Today, the organization has grown and provides a host of educational materials for schools, communities, and parents to help with bullying prevention programs.
Unity Day is celebrated both online and offline in a show of support of students struggling with the stigma of being bullied. To participate in Unity Day, schools and communities are encouraged to wear the color orange, write UNITY somewhere visible on their person or belongings, hang banners displaying the event, and wear an orange unity ribbon. Participants can purchase their own unity banner on the PACER website; however, to make the event more inclusive and interactive, schools could consider discussing the issue of bullying and students could create their own unity banners reflecting how they believe they can take actions. Instructions and details about the unity ribbon and about getting involved can be found here.
Unity Day also takes place online. Participating in Unity Day could mean sharing it via social media because social media can spread information faster and farther than anything else. The National Bullying Prevention Center recommends changing one’s Facebook status to “UNITY DAY, October 9th. Join the movement to make it orange and make it end! If you are being bullied, you are not alone. Unite and be a champion against bullying!” However, students could go beyond a generic phrase and harness the power of social media by posting their words of encouragement and support for October 9th. Joining the Unity Day Facebook event and posting picture wearing orange and creating posters are some other ways to get involved online and share the fight against bullying via social media. With these basic activities, anyone can get involved in Unity Day and reflect upon the challenges faced by students bullied in school.
Schools can go the extra mile in celebrating Unity Day by addressing bullying with the student body. Serious class discussions and forums could take place to get students’ feedback about how they’ve experienced bullying, what their thoughts are about it, and how it should be dealt with. The National Bullying Prevention Center also has instructions for hosting a Unity Dance accompanied by optional music and choreography to the song “You Can’t Take That Away from Me” by Nashville musicians Tim Akers and Libby Weavers. PACER also has an online petition for students to sign in support of students being bullied and in hope of ending bullying. Students can also get involved by using their artistic abilities to talk about bullying and design a way to symbolically represent unity.
Additionally, “The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin” is an accessible way to teach younger students about bullying. The story, available in both movie and storybook format, tells about a Spookley who is a square pumpkin living in a patch of round pumpkin. The story and its accompanying lesson plans can help teachers engage their students in a discussion about bullying by using a simple story and applying it to reality. To fully benefit from the message and objective of embracing Unity Day, schools and students should attempt to really involve participants in the event and draw attention to both the problem and solution. More information and resources to help spark a celebration of Unity Day can be found here.
Unity has power, and harnessing that power is the goal of Unity Day. Uniting people online and offline is like one big petition against bullying. People are called upon to petition their support in the colours they wear, the things they share online, the discussions they have about conflict resolution, and in the form of an actual petition to sign. We think of the purpose of petition as a unified group compelling someone to change by a show of support for the issue. Spreading awareness is a big part of Unity Day, but awareness is only useful if it promotes action. Though Unity Day is an annual event, hopefully one year it will not be necessary.
About PACER's Bullying Prevention Center
Every year 13 million kids in America are bullied. PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center unites, engages, and educates communities nationwide to prevent bullying through the use of creative, interactive resources. It has three helpful websites that offer a wide variety of free resources teachers, students, and families can use to address bullying in schools, the community, and online:
• KidsAgainstBullying.org is for elementary school children.
• TeensAgainstBullying.org is for middle school and high school students.
• PACER.org/bullying is for parents, educators, and other concerned adults.