They wore orange shirts, carried orange balloons, made orange decorations, and some even wore orange headbands and hair ties.
But the sixth-graders at Rosa Park Elementary School in Hyattsville weren’t making a fashion statement — they were taking part in National Unity Day, an initiative promoting bullying awareness.
“Everybody is rallying against bullying,” said sixth-grader Cindy Maldonado, 12, who helped lead the Wednesday event.
Cindy said she read about National Unity Day in Time for Kids, a news magazine for children.
“I got an idea in my head: ‘Why shouldn’t we do it?’” Cindy said.
Cindy said she and her classmates asked their homeroom teacher, Casey Wainwright, if they could participate in the event. The idea spread to other sixth-graders, then — after students wrote a letter on orange paper to Principal Tara Minter — to the entire school. Wainwright said students and faculty were wearing orange because it is the color associated with anti-bullying.
“Even the custodians, the office workers. Everybody dressed in orange,” she said.
Cindy and her classmate Yoselyn Guzman of Hyattsville said they stayed after school making anti-bullying posters in the days leading up to the event.
“This, to me, was a great learning experience for the students,” Minter said.
National Unity Day was founded by the Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights National Bullying Prevention Center, a Minnesota-based nonprofit engaging and educating communities nationwide to address bullying.
“Having one day where there’s a very simple action can make a really big difference in getting people involved,” said Sarah Busch, an associate at the center.
Busch said it was important for sixth-grade students to understand how to combat bullying since it is prevalent at that grade level. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 28 percent of students ages 12 to 18 experienced bullying in school.
During an assembly, Rosa Parks Elementary sixth-graders discussed the pitfalls of bullying and the importance of bullying prevention.
“National Unity Day brings about a certain awareness. [The students] want to show that we are in tune to bullying and we’re not going to do it,” school counselor Victor Butler said.
Cindy and Yoselyn said they want to hold additional anti-bullying events throughout the school year.
“Hopefully, they celebrate it next year, too,” Yoselyn said of the National Unity Day event at the school.