Imagine what the world would be like without bullying.
"This is an issue that will take all our efforts," said Salt Lake City Councilman Charlie Luke at Tuesday's kickoff of an anti-bullying initiative sponsored by a coalition of public and private partners.
"We know bullying is a problem, but what can we do about it? People don't know where to turn," Luke said. "That's why we've organized the anti-bullying initiative."
Resources to combat bullying are now available at flipthescriptnow.org/slc. The goal is to make bullying socially unacceptable, Luke said.
Luke told an audience of about 200 at the City Hall kickoff that about 13 million school-aged kids will be bullied in the United States this year. Bullying comes in the form of verbal and physical abuse as well as electronically, known as cyber-bullying, he said.
The District 6 councilman began to organize the coalition 10 months ago after a neighbor was the target of ongoing bullying at Highland High School.
J.T. Hiskey, who was then a 14-year-old freshman, was bullied daily by three older boys at school and off school grounds.
"I tried to ignore it," J.T. said. "But I'd go to school the next day and it would start all over again."
J.T. and his family became frightened when the bullies began vandalizing their house.
"They would follow me home and send me terrible messages and insult me in the halls."
The bullying finally ended when police got involved.
J.T.'s mother, Sandy Hiskey, said she's happy Luke organized the anti-bullying initiative.
"I'm glad we're finally talking about it and doing something about it," she said.
Flip the Script Now coalition members include Salt Lake City, the Salt Lake City School District and the Salt Lake City Police Department, as well as private entities, including Comcast and R&R Public Relations.
Salt Lake City schools Superintendent McKell Withers said it's important to talk about bullying.
"Together we can do more than we can independently," he said. "We should watch out for those who can't watch out for themselves."
The community can work together to stop bullying, said coalition member David Parker, director of the Eunice Kennedy Institute at the University of Utah.
"When we all get together with one goal and put our efforts to one thing, we can be much stronger," he said."
At Tuesday's kickoff, the Hillside Middle School choir sang "You've Got A Friend" and John Lennon's "Imagine."
And Parker asked the audience to imagine what the community would look like if they carried their enthusiasm forward toward treating each other more kindly.
Salt Lake City students in grades seven through 12 were shown the documentary "Bully" in the fall.
Radio and television ads will begin running in the Salt Lake area to promote flipthescriptnow.org/slc. The spots were underwritten and produced by R&R Partners.
"This is a powerful tool that will allow us to move forward," Luke said. "Bullying is something we can work to end."