Group's goal: No more bullying
If you go
What: A community-wide picnic to kick off the Milton Youth Coalition's anti-bullying campaign for the 2012-2013 school year
When: 6 p.m. tonight.
Where: Northside Intermediate School, 159 Northside Drive, Milton.
Details: Pizza dinner for the first 125 students to arrive, followed by a presentation on the negative impact of bullying. Event also features a dance, games, and a raffle for anti-bullying T-shirts and Piggly Wiggly gift cards.
MILTON A Milton community group is cranking out a big, bright orange message to fight bullying.
It's on blaze orange T-shirts, pamphlets and Facebook messages. Soon it'll show up on bright street signs all over the city.
There's even a new, anonymous online bullying complaint form linked to the city of Milton website.
The message of it all: "Live the Milton way: Safe in our schools. Safe in our community. No bullying."
"We're going to flood Milton with that message. We'd love to see bullying be as much of a taboo for students as cigarette smoking," said Milton Northside Intermediate School Principal Sarah Stuckey.
Stuckey is part of the Milton Youth Coalition, a volunteer community task force that has taken up a citywide anti-bullying campaign this school year.
The group is working with the Milton School District, the city of Milton and the Milton Police Department to set up a network of outreach activities and an information campaign. The purpose is to inform parents and students about bullying, the problems it can cause and how to handle it.
The group plans a public pizza dinner today at Northside to kick off the campaign, which is set to run the entire school year.
"So many anti-bullying efforts are a one-stop shop," Stuckey said. "The school brings in a speaker. That helps to some extent, but it doesn't always have a lasting impact.
"We need to make this a continuous, systematic effort because bullying is a continuous issue."
Stuckey and Milton Police Lt. John Conger said much of the campaign will be focused at Milton Middle School and Northside because the group believes the message will take root with students in their pre-teen and early teen years.
The campaign is being fueled in part by grant money from local action group Partners in Prevention of Rock County. Some initiatives are:
-- Street signs, T-shirts, pamphlets and posters that get out about the campaign's main message: "No bullying."
-- An anonymous online bullying complaint form at ci.milton.wi.us. People who are bullied or witness bullying can access the police department's page on the city website, click on "bully alert" and electronically submit a form that outlines the details of an incident.
Milton police will view the complaints confidentially and follow up on them. It's another outlet to help people who could be hesitant or afraid to blow the whistle on bullies.
-- Bully Patrol: Milton High School student mentors will patrol areas around Milton Middle and Northside Intermediate schools to target before- and after-school bullying.
You'll recognize the patrols by their bright orange T-shirts.
The Milton Police Department plans to continue enforcement with its existing staff of two school resource officers.
The campaign is not Milton's first strike against bullying. In 2010, the city enacted a harassment ordinance that allows police to issue ordinance tickets to students who bully others at school. Last year, the city rolled out an anti-cyber bullying ordinance with attached fines for violators.
"It's not that bullying is that much worse here in Milton," Stuckey said. "It's that we're trying to be that much more proactive in how we handle it here."
Stuckey said to combat bullying it's crucial to have a citywide support network.
"Sometimes kids have a great support network at school but they're scared when they're walking home from school. Some have great neighborhood support network, but they feel isolated at school," Stuckey said. "We're really trying to support the kids in all settings.
"Bullying doesn't have an end," she added. "It doesn't just stop, and it won't ever be resolved. But that doesn't mean we can just dismiss it. We have to tackle it head-on."