Orem city officials sent love to victims of bullying this Valentine’s Day by dedicating the month of February to raising awareness of bullying.
Orem mayor James Evans signed an official proclamation on Feb. 14 counseling city residents to become aware of the bullying problem in public schools and to “Be Cool, Not Cruel” this month.
According to a 2009 U.S. Department of Justice survey, 46.3 percent of adolescents responded that they had been physically assaulted at least once during the previous year. This figure represents physical violence in which approximately 10 percent reported being injured. However, recent events such as the suicide of Utah teen David Phan and the Newtown school shooting have propelled bullying into lethal crisis consideration.
Utah Valley University public relations students developed the “Be Cool, Not Cruel” campaign in response to a national scholarship contest organized by the Public Relations Student Society of America.
“Bullying, both in person and online, has become a critical issue in recent years due to the rise of social media,” According to PRSSA.
Since cyberbullying occurs over social networks too, the campaign raises awareness of bullying through online media. Students are encouraged to comment on weekly Facebook questions for prizes, and the grand prize contest requires video entries to be submitted on YouTube. All these tactics are designed to raise awareness through channels that adolescents follow.
Orem police Sgt. Craig Martinez said, “When it comes to awareness, parents need to be aware of any signs that bullying might be present.” Children who become withdrawn, start skipping school or performing poorly may be victims of bullying.
Sgt. Martinez said Orem police are developing quicker response systems for acts of violence during “Be Cool, Not Cruel” month. The campaign will focus on encouraging victims to come forward quickly.
“We only see the extreme cases,” Martinez said. He compared extreme bullying cases to rape cases — when a victim feels threatened they will often remain silent, which only protects the bully from facing the consequences.
Orem police, along with other departments nationwide, are testing mobile tip software developed in Draper by a company called TipSoft.
Sgt. Martinez said this anonymous text or mobile-app reporting “takes a lot of the fear of (retaliation) out for kids.” Victims or witnesses can report an act of bullying violence, as well as any other criminal acts, by texting their report to 274637-CRIMES.
Mayor Evans showed support for the campaign by writing on his blog. “This is an important issue and we need to educate our children on how to react to and report a bullying problem,” he said.