PULASKI, NY – AT&T, the Tyler Clementi Foundation and Siena College teamed up with Pulaski Mayor Angel Rodriguez and Pulaski High School on Wednesday, March 21, to host the AT&T and Siena Upstander Program, a new cyberbullying peer-to-peer prevention program utilizing trained Siena students to help educate students, teachers and school administrators on the growing cyberbullying epidemic and to provide workshops, tools and resources to combat it.
The AT&T and Siena Upstander Program grows out of the Upstate Cyberbullying Census survey conducted in late 2016 by the Siena College Research Institute, AT&T and the Tyler Clementi Foundation that measured the prevalence of cyberbullying among students, the awareness of this crisis among parents, and parents’ understanding of their children’s digital behaviors in New York.
The staggering data from the study revealed one in four students in Upstate New York and 31% in Central New York have been a victim of cyberbullying.
Those statistics, combined with feedback from schools requesting cyberbullying prevention programming, led AT&T, the Tyler Clementi Foundation and the Siena to collaborate on this public education campaign.
The objective of the program is to create an Upstander culture within Pulaski High School, and other schools where the program is presented.
Upstander is a popular phrase used in the anti-bullying space, and also used by AT&T and the Tyler Clementi Foundation, which encourages students to not simply be a bystander when they witness cyberbullying but, rather, to speak up, notify an adult and/or interrupt the negative behavior.
Students were asked to take the Upstander pledge and promote it throughout the community.
The innovative program pairs Siena College students who have been trained as cyberbullying ambassador facilitators with high school students for peer-to-peer conversations, role playing exercises and workshops.
The program at Pulaski High School consisted of Siena students working with more than 25 selected student leaders for the first part of the school day in a workshop on how to be Upstander Ambassadors.
At the end of the day, the Siena facilitators and the newly trained high school Upstander Ambassadors conducted a school-wide assembly program to share best practices, build awareness of the danger of cyberbullying and promote the Upstander behavior and culture.
“The impact of cyberbullying on our youth has become pervasive and alarming. We simply can’t allow this crisis to destroy more lives and families,” said Marissa Shorenstein, president, AT&T-Northeast Region. “In efforts to curb this negative behavior, AT&T has collaborated with leading organizations within the cyberbullying space to develop programs, including the AT&T and Siena Upstander Program, to give parents, educators and students the tools to combat this epidemic and help facilitate a dialogue that will to lead positive change in our communities.”
The AT&T and Siena Upstander Program also features a film produced by AT&T incorporating award-winning short films made by high school students from across the country at AT&T’s Cyberbullying Film Invitational in 2016.
The film is based on the students’ own unique and personal experiences with cyberbullying and its devastating aftermath.
The program is being offered free to high schools across the state through supporting organizations.
“We are thrilled to work alongside AT&T and the Tyler Clementi Foundation to empower high school students to share their stories, connect with Siena students on a peer to peer level and become leaders of the Upstander movement in their schools and communities,” said Don Levy, director of the Siena College Research Institute. “This program is at the heart of Siena’s mission as a Franciscan college and we are committed to assisting high school students, their parents, and schools to move from being victims and bystanders of cyberbullying to being Upstanders and ambassadors in combating this pervasive issue.”
“Like all forms of bullying, cyberbullying is having a severe effect on our children. The psychological, emotional and physical stress it causes leaves them less likely to succeed in school, more likely to fall victim to substance abuse and unfortunately, cyberbullying has been linked to an increase in suicides,” said New York State Senator Patty Ritchie. “This program is great way to reach all of our children, to show them the true damage caused by cyberbullying, let them know that their families, friends, neighbors and fellow students care about them and hopefully, allow everyone to feel safe in their school environment so they can focus on what is important – their futures.”
“Online tools and social media is the way in which our youth communicate. It is vital that we continue to talk to our students and responsibly educate our youth about the damage words and actions can have on not just individuals, but entire families and communities,” said Pulaski Mayor Rodriguez. “I applaud AT&T and Siena College for working with Pulaski High School staff and faculty to bring the Upstander cyberbullying education program to Pulaski High School to teach the youth in our community how to create a positive environment that discourages cyberbullying.”
“Cyber bullying is a very serious issue and something we don’t take lightly at Pulaski High School. We are pleased to work together with the AT&T and Siena College Upstander Program in hopes of creating more respect and inclusiveness throughout our school,” said Pulaski High School Principal Mike Bateson.
Working with the Tyler Clementi Foundation and Common Sense Media, AT&T has made addressing the rise of cyberbullying a priority.
In addition to the AT&T and Siena Upstander Ambassador program to help teens and parents more safely navigate a connected world, AT&T created Digital You, a comprehensive public education resource offering tools, tips, apps, guidance and community education events for people of all ages and levels of online experience.
It provides education about digital dilemmas and using the internet for a positive and safe outcome.