06:32 PM ET Empowering young people to speak up about bullying

By:  Bob Casey

Just last week, I had the privilege of standing with Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA) and the staff and students of Philadelphia’s Harding Middle School to support them in speaking up against bullying. We raised Cartoon Network’s new STOP BULLYING: SPEAK UP flag to support a school that is working tirelessly to create a vibrant, safe, respectful educational community where all students are accepted and valued.

Accepted and valued; something all our nation’s children deserve to feel, but many don’t.

Cartoon Network’s STOP BULLYING: SPEAK UP campaign empowers young people with confidence and competence to speak up safely and effectively when they see bullying happen. Bullying, more than any other issue young people express, is a problem they believe they can solve — if only adults will teach them the skills and support their efforts.

There are proven tactics young people can safely and effectively employ: tell a trusted adult that you witnessed bullying and keep telling them until they follow-up; if you feel safe, simply tell the person doing the bullying to stop—interrupting a bullying situation in progress is sometimes all it takes to make that one incident end; or if you can’t interrupt the bullying, go up to the victim afterwards and make a gesture of kindness or friendship. It can be as simple as asking them if they are all right, or if they want to sit with you at lunch, or — really importantly — that what just happened was not their fault.

Schools, communities and families all share responsibility for helping our youth address this issue. Too many times young people tell us that they told an adult about a bullying incident but nothing really happened to help the situation. Our young people are committed and courageous, but they can’t always do this on their own.

Resources can be found at the federal government’s stopbullying.gov; our StopBullyingSpeakUp.com; the Anti-Defamation League’s noplaceforhate.org; and many others that offer free, downloadable content in print and video for parents, teachers and community leaders.

It is crucial that we send a strong, consistent, visible signal to our audiences that bullying is not OK, will not be ignored, and will not be tolerated in our schools and communities. A visible symbol of that commitment is raising the STOP BULLYING: SPEAK UP flag.

A flag represents something to which we can pledge our support; it represents a cause and a set of beliefs to which we can all adhere. Seeing a flag that says “STOP BULLYING” flying over a building, in a park, or in front of a town hall tells young people that we support them. It signifies that we have their backs, that we will support their efforts to help create kind, respectful, accepting schools and communities.

STOP BULLYING: SPEAK UP flags are being distributed, with support from our partners at LG and the American Federation of Teachers, to 2,000 elementary and middle schools across the country. The flag is posted with our partners at Facebook’s STOP BULLYING: SPEAK UP page and templates for creating your own flag can be found at www.StopBullyingSpeakUp.com.

When driving a car, we all recognize and stop at STOP signs. Surely, we can extend that in support of our nation’s youth — let’s raise the flag, let’s SPEAK UP.

One of the things that can help fuel this movement is federal legislation that makes safe schools an enforceable priority. Recently Sen. Casey reintroduced the Safe Schools Improvement Act. It is a straightforward attempt to provide national protection when it comes to bullying prevention. The bill will help ensure that all students are safe and can learn in environments free from discrimination, bullying and harassment.

I urge you to support this work and welcome your involvement. Raise your flag and show your commitment to our nation’s children.