I have several themes on my mind today that are pertinent to the season. What a thrill we have in Central Oklahoma with the successes of University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University football, the arrival of the Oklahoma City Thunder, a chill in the air signaling Thanksgiving and Christmas just ahead, and yesterday’s vote for president, federal offices and key state and local offices.
These attractions are indeed seasonal. They are not daily occurrences and when they do happen in our lives and our communities, we celebrate both memories from the past and the anticipation of things to come.
The National Retail Federation predicted that U.S. consumers would spend $5.77 billion on Halloween this year. That breaks down to $66.54 on average per person. In spite of the travails of the economy, that figure was up from last year’s retail spending. Perhaps a brief respite in the form of a holiday is just what we needed right now. Even in Central Oklahoma, where our economic outlook has been lauded nationally, we hear of more businesses closing, cutbacks in employees, houses languishing on the market and even prices for school meals increasing.
That brings me to a second theme today. This theme is not pleasant and not reflective of the best in us in Central Oklahoma or anywhere in America. This theme is one of bullying and school violence. I was in the Legislature in the late Nineties when a bill was first offered to require schools to provide professional development seminars on bullying to their staffs. My first reaction was “Ridiculous. What about local control of schools. Can’t parents handle this?” How naïve I was and how much I quickly learned.
No, parents cannot protect their children from so much of what happens at school; neither can teachers. However, there is a serious and pervasive danger in our schools caused by bullying. I suppose we all became acutely aware of this fact with the tragedy and violence of the Columbine High School shootings in 1999, if we had not become converts prior to that tragedy.
On Nov. 13, Central Oklahoma citizens and professionals can join other community partners for a “Stop Hate in the Hallways” conference. This meeting will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the National Center for Employee Development, 2801 Highway 9 in Norman. Attorney General Drew Edmondson is scheduled to open the conference from the speaker’s platform. Cost for the event is $75 for adults, which covers lunch and materials.
Why is this conference important? According to the organization, 65 percent of teens nationwide report that they have been harassed or assaulted because of perceived or actual appearance, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression, race/ethnicity, disability or religion; half of all students have had rumors or lies spread about them at school; 71 percent of teachers believe that anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies would be helpful in securing a safe learning environment for many of their students.
Register for the conference at http://www.StopHateInTheHallways.org.
Boyd, a former state legislator, is owner and chief executive officer of Policy and Performance Consultants Inc.