During a two-day flurry of informative, energizing events and reaching out to community leaders, school officials, parents and students, the San Mateo County Office of Education kicked off “Respect! 24/7: We’re ALL In,” a two-year initiative supporting safe respectful environments for San Mateo County students, their families and communities.
The serendipitous timing of the event, which occurred on April 17 and 18 and was co-sponsored by Community Gatepath, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, the California 17th District PTA and Congresswoman Jackie Speier, couldn’t have been better.
Bullying has been a hot topic in the news in recent weeks, coinciding with the Bay Area release of the documentary film, “Bully,” in local movie theaters on April 13. And Thursday’s San Francisco Chronicle reported that a New Jersey school district agreed to pay $4.2 million to settle a lawsuit by a middle school student, who was paralyzed when a bully punched him in the abdomen.
“Respect! 24/7: We’re ALL in,” events included a VIP breakfast with 75 community leaders in attendance followed by a forum that began with a recorded video message from Congresswoman Jackie Speier and in-person welcomes from San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools Anne Campbell; San Mateo County Board of Education President Rod Hsiao; San Mateo County Supervisor Carole Groom; Community Gatepath CEO Sheryl Young; Stephanie Papas, representing State Superintendent of Public InstructionTom Torlakson; and Office of Civil Rights attorney Kendra Fox-Davis.
Evening events on April 17 included a youth leadership forum and a forum for parents. On April 18, Fogg Phillips led a workshop for educators.
The highlight of the April 17 morning forum, held at the Sobrato Center for Nonprofits in Redwood City, was the keynote address given by national expert on social media and bullying, Linda Fogg Phillips. Mother of eight and author of Facebook for Parents, Fogg Phillips spoke about her own journey as a mother realizing the importance of being involved in her children’s lives. She wasn’t too interested in Facebook, didn’t understand it and didn’t think it was important until her brother informed her that her teenage daughter had a new boyfriend, and he found out about it on Facebook. Then she knew it was time to get her own account and “friend” her children on Facebook so that she could keep up with their lives.
Fogg Phillips has become a parent advocate and external consultant to Facebook. She has made it her mission to help parents and adults adapt to the social media environment in order to stay connected to their children and students.
“The average age of employees at Facebook is 26, and things done at Facebook are not done with the perspective of a parent or an adult,” she said. Over the past few years she has worked with Facebook to create guides for educators and school counselors, and helped the company to address the concerns of educators and parents.
Last fall, Facebook launched a Stop Bullying: Speak Up page, which has more than 1 million “likes.”
“They’re trying to position themselves as a team player,” Fogg Phillips said.
Facebook is also supporting "A Platform for Good," a forthcoming digital citizenship initiative from the Family Online Safety Institute to encourage kids, parents, and teachers to connect, share, and do good. The program will launch later this year.
With the advent of social media, bullying has gone viral, and much attention has been focused on the negative effects. Fogg Phillips held up a hammer and said,“Social media is a tool and like a hammer it can be used to build or tear down.”
Her focus is to teach parents, educators and students to use social media in a positive way. She spoke of the importance of adults modeling civility, empathy and compassion in their posts and in their face-to-face conversations. She called for a “framework of good digital citizenship” which follows “the three P’s: post thoughtfully, protect privacy and play fairly.”
The “Respect! 24/7: We’re ALL in,” campaign came out of a San Mateo County Grand Jury report a year ago that called on school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies. The San Mateo County Office of Education was charged with leading that effort. School district officials gathered at the County Office last fall and began the work of developing these policies but quickly realized they needed to do more.
The “Respect 24/7” campaign is a way to involve the whole community in this effort. The kick-off events this past week will be followed by a student art contest where students will compete to create a logo for the campaign. Youth leaders will meet this summer and receive training in creating a positive culture at their schools. October 2012 will be “Respect 24/7” month in San Mateo County and there will be town hall meetings in cities throughout the county addressing the topic.