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Orange is the new nice
Liberty schools unite to battle bullying
Students, teachers and school personnel take a photo together, while some hold anti-bully signs, at the 2nd annual Bullying Prevention Rally Oct. 19. The community was encouraged to wear orange in solidarity against bullying and to promote inclusion and acceptance - photo by Tiffany King

Students and school personnel across the district went orange in unity to stand against bullying

The 2nd annual Bullying Prevention Rally hosted by the Liberty County School System was held Oct. 19 at the Performing Arts Center to promote unity, kindness, respect, inclusion and acceptance.

Torri Jackson, LCSS student service support specialist, called the rally the "largest unifying initiative in the district."

One in four students report they are bullied. October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month and on Unity Day, Oct. 19, people are encouraged to wear orange.

Liberty County School System Unity Chorus, made up of students from all grade levels, sang "We Are the World" to start the program.

Spirit squads from Joseph Martin Elementary School and Frank Long Elementary School did cheers.

The evening’s guest speaker was Anthony Johnson, teacher at Midway Middle School and the 2017 LCSS Teacher of the Year.

Johnson first had the audience say the phrase "Dare to be different, my destiny depends on it."

He told the story of how he was bullied as a kid, because he wore big glasses, high-water pants and had "teeth bigger than my face."

At that time, he didn’t realize he was the recipient of bullying and carried the hurt with him throughout elementary and middle school. He called the old adage "Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me" a fairytale, because people often still suffer from what someone said about them years ago.

He learned to embrace who he was as he got older and said "You’re the only one that looks like you."

Johnson defined what bullying is and is not. He said bullying is intentional, repetitive and aggressive behavior towards someone else. It’s not saying "I don’t like you" or telling a joke.

Johnson encouraged parents to be aware of what children are doing in their rooms at home and cautioned against cyberbullying through social media. He said no one is too young to not suffer the consequences of bullying.

"It would be nearly impossible for me to love someone else if I don’t love myself. I got to the point where if you don’t like me that’s cool because I love me," Johnson said. "God took extra time when he made you. Don’t allow anybody else to make you feel otherwise."

The color orange used in the anti-bully campaign, symbolizes joy, happiness and determination, Johnson said, because school personnel are determined to make the district a no-bully zone, and a place where everyone is welcomed.

"Let’s embrace each other’s differences and let’s accept each other for who we are and until you do that, you will not come into the realization of who you are and who you can become," he said. "You can do anything and don’t let a bully tell you otherwise."

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