As kids, we all learned the rhyme "sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." As parents and grandparents, we teach the young people in our lives the same rhyme and encourage them to stand tall and let the harsh words roll off their backs when the name-calling starts. But as children and adults alike can attest, the names can hurt – and sometimes their effects last far longer than any broken bones.
The advent of social media – Facebook, Twitter, and even texting – often compounds the effects of name-calling and bullying. In an instant, a single damaging or hurtful message can be spread throughout a school and beyond, magnifying the hurt by unthinkable proportions. That’s why it’s critical, now more than ever, that young people are made to understand the power of their words and their actions, as well as the long-term and lasting consequences. And that lesson should come before they get their first cell phone or Facebook account. To that end, it’s important that we provide young people with the tools and resources they need to cope, give them safe places and people they can turn to for support, and provide guidance to overcome challenges.
Unfortunately, there are those who still think bullying and name-calling is just kids being kids. However, as we well know, the world is a very different place than when my friends and I grew up in Middletown. So much has changed since my own girls graduated from Goshen High School and I retired from thirty years of teaching in Minisink a little more than a decade ago. Sadly, we see the effects of those changes borne out in the news every day.
To focus a light on the issues of bullying and name-calling, the County, schools, and youth-service organizations throughout Orange County have joined together to declare January 28 through February 1 as No Name-Calling Week in Orange County. Throughout the week, schools, youth organizations, and others will host activities aimed at stemming the tide of name calling and promoting respect for all in Orange County.
No Name-Calling Week is being sponsored by the Cultural Equity Taskforce (CET) in Orange County in partnership with the County Executive’s Office, Orange-Ulster BOCES, Orange County Youth Bureau, County departments of Mental Health, Social Services, and Probation, Orange County System of Care, and Joint Membership of Health and Community Agencies. I applaud the efforts of Nadia Allen, Executive Director of the Mental Health Association in Orange County and CET chair for leading this effort. Nadia recognizes that overcoming issues of name-calling, bullying, and youth safety must be a community lead initiative. No Name-Calling Week provides youth with opportunities to promote respect, build self-control, confidence, and resilience to bullying, both in and out of school.
We are fortunate to have a number of outstanding programs in the County to help young people tackle the challenges of growing up. For more information, visit the Youth Bureau’s pages on the County website at www.orangecountygov.com; check out their Directory of Children, Youth & Family Services. Also visit the Orange County System of Care website at www.mysystemofcare.com and the Mental Health Association’s site at www.mhaorangeny.com.
I look forward to joining with all of these great organizations to recognize No Name-Calling Week in Orange County.
Until next week, I wish you good health and happiness.