A new kind of seatbelt

Seatbelts save lives. We’ve all been told this and have been shown this is true.

Now, a new bullying prevention initiative has been launched with the title SEATBELT, and it, too, hopes to save lives. Bullying, it says, is a human rights issue.

Look no further than the front page of today’s New York Times, which recaps the suicide of a 12-year-old Florida girl who’d been bullied online and offline. Twelve. Years. Old. A time to be thinking about possibilities, not endings.

Safe Environments Achieved Through Bullying Prevention, Engagement, Leadership and Teaching Respect is a project of the  Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. It takes on bullying as a human rights issue, and emphasizes the need to create safe environments for school children in K-12. The focus of the program is on prevention, and it provides tools to help stop bullying.

If you want your school to become a SEATBELT school, you can get tools through this program. It helps teachers and administrators assess the needs of their own school community to avoid a one-size-fits-all mentality.

“This means moving beyond plans and programs and beyond posters in hallways and assembly chants,” SEATBELT states. “It means that adults must work to assure that values of inclusion, respect and responsibility are present in every aspect of schools and schooling.”

Warning signs of a child/teen being bullied include reluctance to go to school, frequent stomachaches or headaches, low self-esteem or depression, non-social tendencies, difficulty sleeping or struggles with nightmares, increased feelings of loneliness, poor grades and a loss of interest in activities he or she used to enjoy.

In promoting the SEATBELT project, NYSUT also calls on its members to use the tools in place through the one-year-old Dignity for All Students Act, which prohibits harassment and discrimination of individuals on school property. NYSUT also has easily accessible online resources to deal with bullying, highlighted especially for October, the month for anti-bullying awareness and domestic violence prevention.

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