Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I love the midwest. I've lived in New York for 35 years but I'm still a midwesterner at heart...and the PACER Center, a national organization based in Minnesota, is just one more reason to love it. Who knew that one of the most successful organizations in the bullying prevention field is rooted in one of the most successful resources for families with children with disabilities?
PACER doesn't talk about the problem. They step up.
I learned about PACER when I was researching the National Bullying Prevention Month last fall. As I followed the trail to the organizers of this campaign, it turned out to be PACER.
I had to ask them the obvious question and Julie Hertzog, director of PACER's National Center for Bullying Prevention, explained:
Why did PACER become involved in the bullying issue and how does it tie in with your original mission of being a resource for parents of children with disabilities?
Around ten years ago, PACER began receiving more and more calls around the bullying of children with disabilities. The stories were very sad, heartbreaking. When we found that statistically children with disabilities were considerably more subject to bullying than their peers, we knew that we needed to take action around education and awareness.
Who would you consider to be your most important audience and how do you reach them?
The students themselves are the key, as they are the ones experiencing the bullying, they know the social hierarchies and dynamics, involving them in the solution is critical - but, they can't do this alone, bullying prevention is everyone's responsibility, students need to know that they are supported by adults and teachers, that there is an infrastructure in place through legislation, policy, and education. They can't do it alone.
We reach them through KidsAgainstBullying.org and TeensAgainstBullying.org which are sites designed for the specific audience – information is presented in a way that is relevant to kids.
PACER was recently invited to the White House Bullying Prevention Summit. Isn't that amazing? Ten years ago, PACER got involved in the bullying issue because it was "heartbreaking" and needed to be addressed. Ten years ago, bullying wasn't in the national news. They weren't responding to the bullying issue for any type of attention. PACER stepped up because in their journey to help kids with disabilities, they realized that bullying was diminishing the lives of kids in all types of circumstances. Once again, families with kids with disabilities, have inspired change and are teaching all families a thing or two.
If your child or teen is being mistreated, encourage them to visit the Kids Against Bullying or the Teens Against Bullying websites. In addition to good information, young stars Demi Lovato and most recently, MICHAEL and MARISA are adding their voices to help PACER reach kids by getting the point across that "we all are the same."
They're right. No one can do it alone. Thanks, PACER.