Firm hopes bully awareness campaign spreads around US

The firm that created the award-winning slogan "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" is turning its attention to bullying, and it hopes this idea won’t stay in Las Vegas.

R&R Partners, through its R&R Foundation, launched Flip the Script, an anti-bullying campaign, this year.

A curriculum was distributed to Clark County schools to mark the first week in October as a Week of Respect, and the colorful website flipthescriptnow.com encourages teens to take a pledge that they will speak out against bullying.

Now the firm is planning to take the campaign beyond Las Vegas.

Billy Vassiliadis, CEO and principal of R&R Partners, said he was moved to do something after 18-year-old Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, a victim of cyber-bullying, committed suicide last year.

R&R researched the issue and found that about 56 percent of students have witnessed bullying at school. One in four kids is bullied, and each day 160,000 students miss school for fear of being bullied, R&R found.

Cindy Dreibelbis, a partner of the R&R Foundation, said Vassiliadis asked her to put together a team to address the problem.

"What could we do to create some kind of message out there to try to help prevent this in Nevada?" they asked themselves.

The foundation launched Flip the Script, a campaign with two purposes: Create an awareness/behavior change campaign and strengthen and enforce tougher anti-bullying legislation.

The team asked high school and junior high in-focus groups about bullying they had seen or experienced. The answers inspired the campaign, which features two commercials to be aired during time donated from Cox Communications in addition to the website and curriculum.

One spot shows five teenage girls at a slumber party.

"This girl is very pretty. It’s inciting feelings of jealously in me," one says while looking at a Facebook page. "We should pick on her!"

Another chimes in, "I’m insecure about some things, so I think we should put some mean stuff on here (Facebook) — maybe even some lies, too."

A third says, as she is texting on her phone, "I just want to be accepted by you both, so I’m going to send this to my friends so they think I’m cool."

"The premise of the whole campaign is that kids bully for different reasons, and it’s understanding why kids bully," Dreibelbis said. "We really dug down into getting into the core of and the heart of why they did it."

Flipthescriptnow.org is targeted toward parents, teachers, administrators and students on the front line of bullying who have the power to effect change.

The site demonstrates the signs of bullying and encourages viewers to look out for it and stop it if they see it by either reporting it, objecting to it publicly or seeking help for a student who is in trouble.

R&R also lobbied for stronger anti-bullying laws during the 2011 Legislature, said Catherine Levy, director of public affairs at R&R Partners. Levy worked with state Sen. David Parks, sponsor of Senate Bill 276.

The bill builds on laws passed in 2009 that prohibited bullying in schools.

The new law creates an annual Week of Respect in schools in October to bring attention to the issue. It also creates a Bullying Prevention Fund that schools can obtain grants from, requires training of all school personnel, school board trustees and State Board of Education members and requires principals to report bullying incidents to police or higher-ups. In addition, teachers can be disciplined for failing to report a violation.

"Although our biggest goal was awareness, we were so thrilled to be able to assist in passing Senate Bill 276 this past legislative session," Levy said.

The first Week of Respect was scheduled Oct. 3. Gov. Brian Sandoval declared it statewide, but it was unclear how many schools participated.

"My reason for including Week of Respect was because it would force the state’s school districts to take visible action regarding bullying," Parks said. "The time was picked because the greatest numbers of suicides take place during the early weeks of the school year."

The R&R Foundation created a curriculum that included five age-appropriate modules of about 20 minutes with thought-provoking idea starters to lead discussions. They were reviewed and approved by the Clark County School District and distributed to all schools.

While the success from Week of Respect is not known, the week increased traffic on the Flip the Script website.

"It’s the things we have to measure. We got a lot of playtime," Dreibelbis said. "A big part of this is building the awareness about Flip the Script and about knowing where to send kids, parents and administrators to get more information."

The next step is to take Flip the Script to a national stage by bringing it to other R&R Partners offices in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Washington, D.C.

The R&R Foundation is starting to plan that expansion for next year. First, the team is seeking more sponsors to underwrite the campaign, which Dreibelbis said is unique.

"There’s a lot of different sites out there, but they are kind of individual doing individual pieces and nothing is covering all of it," Dreibelbis said. "Those are targeting specifically to that audience. Ours is for anyone being bullied."

Sponsors so far include NV Energy, Caesars Foundation, Human Rights Campaign and media partners Cox Communications, CityLife and several area radio stations.

KLUC-FM hosted a concert Nov. 21 with Hot Chelle Rae for Southwest Career and Technical Academy, the school that got the most pledges on the website.

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