TRACY -- It is estimated that nearly 160,000 students in the United States, from kindergarten through 12th grade, are absent from school each day because of fear of being bullied, according to information provided by the Tracy school district.
The school district is doing what it can to tackle the problem locally, planning an entire school year of activities with the theme "Tracy is a no-bully zone -- you're not alone." Events will kick off with an anti-bullying rally at 6 p.m. Nov. 3 at Kimball High School, 3200 Jaguar Run. The rally is open to the public and will feature students from kindergarten through 12th grade, cheer teams, varsity athletes, local dignitaries and district staff. A San Francisco 49er will also be a keynote speaker.
"This is about awareness and understanding what bullying really is," said Paul Hall, director of student services for Tracy Unified. "It's very specific as far as the law is concerned. This effort is a group action and not just one person.
"Principals in the school district are going though intensive training about bullying. It's those individuals that end up being bullies when they're older that we want to prevent now."
Bullying can take on many forms such as verbal teasing or taunting, physical intimidation, exclusion from activities and public humiliation. Bullying can be done through face-to-face confrontations or come through technological outlets such as the Internet with online social
"The Tracy Unified School district has adopted a policy on anti-bullying to encourage positive behaviors and eliminate bullying," said Tracy Mayor Brent Ives in a citywide proclamation declaring October as Anti-Bullying Month.
You don't need to look far to find someone who is or has gone through the torment of being bullied. Local resident Shannon Edwards was first bullied while still in kindergarten, and it continued through eighth grade.
"The hurtful words still play in my mind today," Shannon Edwards said. "I had spinal surgery and even had to do home school and was still bullied by other kids, and nothing was done. I was shuffled to the side and told my feelings didn't matter.
"No one taught me to stand up. I wish I had done something because words hurt and continue to hurt for a lifetime. We need to stop this today so more kids don't get hurt."
Approximately 56 percent of all students have witnessed bullying take place while at school. About 71 percent of students report bullying as an ongoing problem. Some of the most common years of bullying are grades four through nine, in which some 90 percent of students were reported as victims of some kind of bullying, according to the website BullyingStatistics.org.
"Our goal is to develop and implement programs that will make anti-bullying a reality in our city," Superintendent James Franco said.
Each month after the kickoff rally, Tracy Unified will host an event and focus on a specific aspect of bullying. In January, it will focus on cyberbullying. Cyberbullying can take on many forms, such as posting humiliating photos online or sending them through text messages or emails.
It could also be posting hurtful or false information about a person online or sending it through other electronic devices.
About 50 percent of young people have experienced cyberbullying, and cyberbullying victims are more likely to have low self-esteem and consider suicide, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center.
For more information on anti-bullying events through the Tracy school district, go to www.tracy.k12.ca.us.