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Bullying Prevention Institute Designed to Empower Change in Schools

Highmark Healthy High 5 convenes national experts at unique forum to

address bullying prevention on Oct. 4 and 5

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Every day more than 160,000 students miss school. This absence is not due to illness; it is because of a fear of being bullied. Studies have shown that 77 percent of students report that they have been bullied mentally, verbally or physically in school. Bullying is aggressive behavior that is intentional and involves an imbalance of power or strength, and is becoming a serious, national health issue.

On October 4 and 5, Highmark Healthy High 5, an initiative of the Highmark Foundation, will present the Bullying Prevention Institute at the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, PA. This event is the only one of its kind in Pennsylvania.

Held in collaboration with the Office of Community Health, Conemaugh Health System, this two-day event will feature national bullying prevention experts and serve as a kickoff to a statewide discussion on the national crisis of bullying. The keynote speaker is Stan Davis, a certified consultant for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.

A nationally-recognized, evidence-based bullying prevention program, the Olweus program has been utilized for more than 25 years, and is a system-wide approach that focuses on changing behaviors that lead to an improvement in school and a reduction in antisocial behaviors. This program has significant results in decreasing bullying behaviors among children in grades K-10.

"Bullying is a serious public health issue that affects countless children and adolescents every day," said Aaron Walton, chairman of the board of the Highmark Foundation. "The Highmark Foundation believes it is important to support anti-bullying efforts since bullying is correlated with increased reports of physical illness in children and adolescents. We are committed to bringing together bullying prevention experts, community organizations, educators and state agencies to develop solutions to help address this issue facing children and schools."

Bullying can be extremely painful and humiliating. Children who are bullied are more likely to suffer from depression and low self-esteem. One of the newer forms of bullying happens on-line or electronically. Cyberbullying is when children or teens bully each other using the Internet, mobile phones or other cyber technology. This can include: sending mean text, e-mail or instant messages; posting nasty pictures or messages about others in blogs or on Web sites; and using someone else's user name to spread rumors or lies.

The Bullying Prevention Institute will provide the tools and resources that school administrators, counselors, educators, school nurses, policy makers and social workers need to create or improve the bullying prevention programs in their schools.

Bullying Prevention 101: A look at the Basics of Bullying and Prevention will be held on Thursday, Oct. 4, and includes an afternoon of information ideal for attendees new to bullying prevention and for those wanting to improve on existing programs. On Friday, Oct. 5, Tackling the Difficult Issues: Taking Action for Success, will expand into areas of cyberbullying, emotional violence and the steps for intervention. In addition, on Friday, there will be a special session for teens designed to equip them with the tools needed to act as change agents in their schools.

"Safe school environments are critical to the academic success of students," said Matthew Masiello, MD, director of community health, Conemaugh Health System and architect of the Highmark Healthy High 5 HALT program. If students are worried about their safety in school, their focus gets diverted, making it exceedingly more difficult to succeed academically. We are proud to be a signature partner of Highmark Healthy High 5, and through this partnership, we have a great opportunity to expand the HALT Bullying Prevention Program."

About Highmark Healthy High 5

Highmark Healthy High 5 is a five-year, $100 million initiative of the Highmark Foundation aimed to reverse the current trends in children's health and to promote lifelong healthy habits in children throughout the 49 counties served by the Highmark Foundation. Highmark Healthy High 5 addresses five critical children's health issues, including nutrition, physical activity, self-esteem, grieving and bullying prevention -- through education, communications, volunteerism, grants and programming.

About Conemaugh Health System

Conemaugh Health System is the largest health care provider in West Central Pennsylvania, serving families across 12 counties through a nationally recognized network of hospitals, physician offices, specialty clinics and other patient-focused programs. Located in rural communities in Cambria and Somerset counties, their community-based hospitals provide a life-giving link to the people who depend on them for care.

SOURCE Highmark Foundation
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