Fort Worth anti-bullying program may be going national

Posted Monday, Mar. 25, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH -- Students around the country could be wearing anti-bullying buttons, lanyards and wristbands with a motto familiar to Fort Worth school students: It's Not Okay.

That's the name of an initiative to promote respect, integrity and civility created by Fort Worth school district administrators that's in place on Fort Worth campuses.

On Tuesday, trustees are scheduled to discuss a proposed licensing agreement with a New York-based company that would allow other districts to use the It's Not Okay phrase (INOK) on items such as silicone bracelets, magnets and pencils. In return, Fort Worth schools would net royalty payments from the materials sold elsewhere, officials said.

"We've had districts calling from all over saying that they want to use it," said Kathryn Everest, Fort Worth schools guidance and counseling director. "Our kids want INOK to be as globally recognizable as the pink ribbon."

Launched in 2010-11, the It's Not Okay initiative focuses on 18 issues that impact teens and adolescents, including bullying/cyber bullying, teen dating, violence, sexting, cheating, suicide and substance abuse. Students are encouraged to make good decisions and ask for help when they or their friends need it. Attorneys are working to trademark the It's Not Okay program.

The school district produces posters, videos and pledge cards for students, staff and parents to show their commitment to treat others with respect and create safe school environments. This year, the district launched a video for employees that targets bullying and disrespect in the workplace, called It's Not Okay -- At Any Age.

The video stars students, staff and actors from Fort Worth community theater and was hosted by a middle school student and Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns. A 2010 speech Burns made at a City Council meeting about being bullied growing up gained national attention.

Burns hailed the idea of spreading It's Not Okay outside of Fort Worth.

"I think that they've honed a good program and if it allows other school districts to not have to reinvent the wheel, I think that's a great thing to share," he said. "I think it's a good program, and I'm happy to see as many young people see it as possible."

The proposed licensing agreement with Positive Promotions of Hauppauge, N.Y., would pay the Fort Worth school district royalties based on a percentage of sales. For example, under the proposal, the district would get a 20 percent royalty on sales up to $250,000.

"During this time of funding challenges in public education, we must look to other resources and opportunities to create incremental income for our district. By selling rights to some of our copyrighted work, we can both share their positive influence and realize income that will support our students, our employees and our work," trustees were told in agenda documents.

Jessamy Brown, 817-390-7326

Twitter: @jessamybrown

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Joel Burns' council speech

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