Rotary club, school district team up to prevent bullying
Most big goals cannot be accomplished without unity and teamwork, which is why the Rotary Club of Berkley and the Berkley School District have joined forces to stamp out bullying in the local community.
With their new Take a Stand: No Place for Hate campaign, the two entities are working together to raise community awareness and teach people the skills necessary to prevent bullying and its consequences. According to Rotary Club President Paul Benson, the club is hoping to make this a two-year endeavor to help tackle a problem that has become more and more prevalent among American youth.
“The Rotary Club wanted to do a community project, and we felt like bullying was something that we should try to address,” he said. “It’s a very important issue, and I don’t think a lot of people realize how serious it is. We feel like we’re in a good position to facilitate this project, because we’re a natural bridge between the business community, the school community and the residential community.”
The club will officially kick off its anti-bullying campaign by hosting a complimentary luncheon and meeting. The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 12:15 p.m. Oct. 1 at the Berkley First United Methodist Church, 2820 W. 12 Mile Road. Vince Gigliotti, principal of Anderson Middle School, will preside over the meeting and discuss what his school has done to reduce bullying among its students.
“Here at Anderson, we’ve been trying to be more proactive against bullying,” Gigliotti explained. “We just try to create an environment where bullying is not tolerated and where action is taken to stop it. We want to make sure that kids aren’t afraid to speak up about it and that they’re comfortable talking about it with adults at school and at home.”
According to Berkley Superintendent Dennis McDavid, Gigliotti has been leading the charge against bullying throughout the district by providing an example for others to follow.
“Middle school can be a tough time for a lot of kids,” McDavid said, “and Vince has done a great job of addressing any bullying situations that arise. We take every reported case of bullying very seriously, which is why we have very little of it in our schools.”
The Rotary Club will help the district further diminish bullying via financial contributions. For instance, all proceeds raised at the club’s 57th annual pancake breakfast Nov. 3 — its largest fundraiser of the year — will be donated to Berkley Schools to put toward the Take a Stand: No Place for Hate campaign.
“We will be providing some funds to the school district, but then we’ll leave it up to them to implement their own anti-bullying programs,” Benson said. “We just want to help make those programs even stronger.”
The Rotary Club and school district will also be working together to create a Community Code of Conduct poster describing the ways that all people deserve to be treated. They will then ask local business owners to hang the posters in their windows, along with a smaller poster that contains emergency phone numbers for kids and teens who are victims of bullying to call if they need help.
“Rotary is primarily a business organization,” Benson noted, “so we’ll be spending most of our time reaching out to the Berkley business community to help spread the word about this campaign.”
Gigliotti pointed out that bullying in the 21st century has evolved and is no longer limited to things like physical violence, intimidation, name-calling and gossiping. With the rise of social networking and text messaging, cyber bullying has become increasingly common, and it’s an issue that Gigliotti plans to focus on more closely over the next couple years at Anderson.
He also knows that while it’s impossible to eliminate bullying from Berkley, with the support of community organizations like the Rotary Club, school leaders can do a better job of keeping it under control.
“I don’t think there’s a school in the nation that doesn’t have at least some problem with bullying,” Gigliotti said. “For us, the most important things are not turning a blind eye to it and encouraging kids to let us know what’s going on. We’re not going to be able to eradicate bullying completely, but we can at least try to minimize it.”
For more information on the Take a Stand: No Place for Hate campaign, visit www.berkleyrotaryclub.com or call the Berkley School District at (248) 837-8095.