Partnership for Awareness to Address Bullying Oct. 15

Most students at San Marino High School have probably dealt with it at some point in their lives. The incident may have occurred in elementary school or perhaps it took place in middle school. Maybe it just happened yesterday. Wherever, whenever or however bullying rears its ugly head, the fallout is almost always detrimental, especially for victims attempting to navigate through their formative years.
This omnipresent issue among students all over the country is why public safety advocate Monica Harmon founded Speak Out Against Bullying in 2013, a nonprofit organization that aims to reduce bullying via public awareness and education. Through conferences and speeches at school assemblies across Southern California, Harmon seeks to empower children and parents with the necessary information to recognize and prevent bullying.
The San Marino High School Webb Theatre will be Harmon’s upcoming forum as she continues to spread her message on Thursday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. with a program called “Bullying & Cyberbullying: Awareness and Prevention.”
“We talked to her because October is National Bullying Prevention Month,” said Ning Wu, program co-chair at Partnership for Awareness, the organization sponsoring Harmon’s event next week. “We wanted to do something having to do with bullying in October… I think this is really good timing and really appropriate.”
According to a 2013 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, about 22% of students ages 12-18 reported being bullied at school. Harmon had already been observing these kinds of statistics for years. Her public safety advocacy experience includes time spent working with the Los Angeles Police Department, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Homeland Security.
“I saw the need,” Harmon said. “I’ve been a public safety advocate for over 20 years, really involved in communities all over Los Angeles. I organize a lot of community events and parents and students started telling me that [bullying] was a really big issue. When I saw that there was a need and kind of did a lot of research, I just said ‘I think this is my purpose.’ I was just determined to try to do whatever I could to help because I‘ve worked with kids for many, many years.”
Harmon’s advocacy is tailored to her specific audience. When she speaks at school assemblies comprised of younger children, she focuses on general themes, such as respecting kindness and the Golden Rule — treating others how you want to be treated.
“We don’t want to over-stimulate them with the word ‘bully,’” said Harmon. “They’re kind of too young to really understand it.”
But for older audiences — the upcoming speech at San Marino High School will be primarily directed at Titan parents although their high-school children are also invited to attend — the discussion is different.
“It covers everything,” said Harmon. “Responsible use of social media, positive online reputation, cyberbullying, sexting, the definitions, what bullying is and what it’s not. The term is really being used inappropriately a lot of times. So we need to just give the kids the information of what it really is and what to do about it.”
Harmon believes that parents play a vital role in the multifaceted process of preventing bullying. The home environment is crucial, she argues, in terms of instilling students with the proper values when they leave for school. Understanding the more complicated aspects of bullying, such as the legal ramifications of certain acts, is also important for parents. But with the recent rise of cyberbullying on relatively new online platforms, it has become increasingly difficult for parents to detect potential problems.
“Initially, we recognized that bullying is an important topic not only for elementary school children, but even as we go into the high schools, where it becomes maybe more different, more subtle, more behind-the-scenes,” said Su Viswanathan, another Partnership for Awareness co-chair. “That’s where cyberbullying becomes so significant because this is something that’s maybe not so easily viewed by parents. It’s usually behind a screen.”
The month of October has been busy for Harmon, who typically attends multiple assemblies and related events each day. The upcoming speech in San Marino will be just another stop on her quest to eradicate from schools the toxin that is bullying.
“We need to start supporting kids and giving them the options of becoming leaders and successful in life and making them understand the cruel and mean behavior is not going to get them anywhere in life,” she said.
Admission to Harmon’s speech is free for supporters of Partnership for Awareness. The organization otherwise suggests a $10 donation. For more information, visit partnershipforawareness.org.

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