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County schools kicks off Bullying Prevention Week

A winning anti-bullying slogan by eighth-grader Giulia Parsons brought officials and students together at Ridgely Middle Tuesday morning to officially kick off Baltimore County Public Schools' first Bullying Prevention Week.

Giulia's slogan, "Loving is Louder," was selected from a group of submissions from county students, and represents her school's belief that bullying can be stopped by anyone — not just a bully or a victim.

"Here at Ridgely, the principal and my guidance counselor focus on the bystander, so I feel like bystanders are very important," Giulua said. "Even if that person that's being bullied is not a friend or you don't know them very well, it's still good for you to stick up for them in a time of need."

Monday's snow day delayed the kickoff, but the excitement for the event at Ridgely held until Tuesday. Throughout county schools during Bullying Prevention Week, March 3-7, there will be related activities, videos and the release of an online reporting form which can submitted anonymously by students, parents or staff, parents. The form is then forwarded to the principal of the relevant school for review and action. Students are also encouraged to sign bullying prevention pledges this week.

The kickoff assembly held in Ridgely's gymnasium featured anti-bullying messages from Penelope Martin-Knox, assistant superintendent for middle schools, Lawrence Schmidt, president of the Board of Education, and Orrester Shaw, special assistant for education to County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.

Giulia's slogan was selected by the Baltimore County Student Council after the council held a countywide contest and collected slogans submitted by students throughout January. On Tuesday, Giulia was awarded an executive citation and a plaque. But the marquee gift, Schmidt acknowledged, was the iPad donated by the Save-A-Limb Foundation. The nonprofit foundation also donated "Loving is Louder" shirts to students at the assembly.

A video message featured messages from Orioles manager Buck Showalter, shortstop JJ Hardy and Baltimore Blast players, BCPS Superintendent Dallas Dance explained that anti-bullying day began last year as a one-day event. The Superintendent's Student Advisory Council expanded it this year into a weeklong event.

Giulia said that while she was honored with the attention she and her school received, anti-bullying was more than a week-long cause at Ridgely.

"We focus a lot on it," Giulia said. "My first year here, the counselor would go around to different periods and we had this whole presentation on the bystanders and victims, and bullies, being passive and aggressive.

"I see not only myself, but also my friends [intervene when we see bullying]," Giulia said. "I see a lot of people sticking up for people. It's not a lot of the time because here at Ridgely, we're all [friendly], but you do see that sometimes."

As for Ridgely, Principal Susan Evans said Giulia's slogan represents that school well.

"I think it comprises such a wide spectrum of how people should treat each other," she said. "I believe Ridgely Middle and our students really represent that very well."

Throughout Bullying Prevention Week, each day has a corresponding color and anti-bullying message, according to BCPS. Tuesday's color, green, represented empathy. Students were encouraged to sign bullying prevention pledges and sit with students they wouldn't normally sit with at lunch.

Wednesday's color is blue, for "Random Words of Kindness Day," when students will be encouraged to write positive message to their peers on bulletin boards. On Thursday, the campaign will aim to produce 5,000 positive tweets for cyber-bullying awareness using the hashtag #lovingislouder. Thursday's color is red for respect, and Friday, students are encouraged to wear purple for positivity, and schools are planning their own activities.

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