In a prelude to what has been officially proclaimed Anti-Bullying Week in New Hampshire Nov. 18 to 25, thousands of Granite State high school and middle school students gathered Friday in Durham to rally against bullying.
Gov. Maggie Hassan, who proclaimed the week to “promote bullying awareness, prevention, and intervention”, spoke to the students, lauding them for their cooperative efforts to hold bullies at bay in their schools.
“What you are doing today is part of New Hampshire’s tradition of inclusiveness,” she said in remarks to about 3,500 youth at the Whittemore Center on the campus of the University of New Hampshire.
“You’re coming together together today to exchange ideas,” she added. “You’re part of the New Hampshire tradition of collective problem solving. You’re developing action plans for your schools, you’re going to empower and inspire each other, you’re representing what I call the ‘all hands on deck spirit’ of New Hampshire. It’s part of what makes us strong; it helps us not only in our families and our businesses and our communities it helps us engage with each other in our democratic process too.”
According to Stand Up to Bullying NH, the group that organized Friday’s rally, students were to discuss the issue in a town meeting forum, hear from inspirational speakers, and caucus to exchange ideas and discuss action plans for their schools.
One of those speakers was Lizzie Velasquez, a 24-year-old Texas woman who has an extremely rare medical condition that left her blind in one eye and with prematurely aging and disfigured features that have made her the target of bullies over the years. She is an author and motivational speaker on issues relating to overcoming adversity that includes bullying.
In her Anti-Bullying Week proclamation, Gov. Hassan noted the following national statistics:
- Bullying is considered the most common form of violence in our society;
- It is estimated that there are more than seven million incidents of bullying reported in public schools each year;
- An estimated 160,000 school children stay home daily because of fear of being bullied;
- Bullying can have dire and sometimes tragic consequences for victims and bullies alike;
- The rate of reported bullying and cyber-bullying increased among 12 to 18-year olds by at least 25 percent over the past decade.
“One of the incredible honors I have as governor is traveling around the state to talk to people about what their lives are like and what they care about and what they think we should do to make things better. I can’t think of a group that exemplifies that tradition of New Hampshire problem solving better than all of you,” she concluded.
Paul Briand is an editor for the Live Free or Die Alliance, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that encourages the discussion and analysis of New Hampshire politics and policies.