In August, dozens of youths and community leaders in the Kaneland area donned bright green T-shirts, prominently featuring four words – “Be Nice. Be Happy” – and marched in the Elburn Days parade, behind the banner of a group called the Kindness Campaign.
It was a key milestone in the fight against bullying in the Kaneland area, especially significant because of the wide range of organizations that rushed to embrace the message – that children should be encouraged to be nice to each other. That effort continues to grow. And while the group’s leaders acknowledge that bullying no doubt still exists in the area, there now exists cooperation where there had been confrontation. School district officials, police leaders, Girl Scouts and other community members walked in the parade with the group.
Kindness in Kaneland Week has been celebrated for the past few days, with events at Kaneland schools and beyond – “random acts of kindness” were rewarded at Kaneland High School. This weekend, three bully-themed movies, including the “Bully” documentary, will be shown at the Sugar Grove Public Library. And it helps that the effort is taking place during October, which is designated as National Bullying Prevention Month.
Bullying is a big deal, and the Tri-Cities and Kaneland areas are not immune. It is unacceptable that there are some youths who are afraid to go to school, out of fear of being belittled, physically attacked or verbally abused. Nationwide, there have been some prominent cases in the news. Two girls in Florida are facing charges after a bullied 12-year-old committed suicide. In Pennsylvania, three teenagers could face charges after a video posted online showed a 17-year-old getting punched in the face during a bus ride home, with the bus driver criticized for continuing to drive during and after the attack.
Don’t read the datelines on those out-of-state stories and fool yourself into believing it doesn’t happen here. It’s obvious it does. We tackled the issue in depth in an award-winning series last year, and we heard many stories of local students who were facing bullying problems in our coverage area.
It’s important to salute the effort made by the Kindness Campaign and to urge its leaders to continue the fight. The journey has just begun.