A youth survey conducted last year showed that 41 percent of Marshalltown students surveyed had been bullied in the last 30 days. Eleven percent of those students said they didn't go to school because they felt unsafe at school or on their way to and from school.
Marshalltown community leaders say they're taking a stand against bullying - before tragedy strikes.
"We want to send a message that we don't want this in our town," said Matt Tullis, equity director with the Marshalltown Community School District and a member of the new anti-bullying effort. "As a community we don't want something tragic to happen and then do something. We want to be proactive."
The theme of the effort is "Not In Our Town" which is based on a national movement to counter hate in communities. A core of group of more than 25 community leaders representing local businesses, law enforcement, schools and government are working toward securing national speakers and community events as part of the initiative.
"We want to raise awareness on the issue and take it a step farther," Tullis said. "There's a consensus that we want to do something big as a community and make a statement."
Tullis said the group will not only focus on bullying among students, but also cyber-bullying and workplace bullying.
"It will be far-reaching," he said.
The "Not In Our Town" effort will make its debut this week in two places the Times-Republican and The Orpheum Theater Center.
Mike Schlesinger, publisher of the Times-Republican, said he wants the newspaper to be a part of the initiative because of the devastating consequences of bullying.
"We want to see if we can be ahead of the curve as a community in preventing bullying," Schlesinger said. "We want to look at ways to prevent school bullying, but also workplace bullying, domestic violence and other types of bullying among adults."
The Times-Republican is discontinuing online comments on its website, as well as the Vent call-in line, since these options originally meant to be a community forum have led to escalating negative comments, Schlesinger said.
"This is just one of the ways we have committed to this movement in our community," he said. "It's our hope that everyone will consider ways they can combat bullying."
The Orpheum Theater Center has engaged in the effort with its own anti-bullying campaign.
The musical production "Honk!" begins this week, carrying a message about accepting people who are different as well as an anti-bullying theme. Suitable for all ages, the performances are scheduled June 7-10 and June 14-17.
The theater will also screen movies throughout the year, including the Iowa-filmed documentary "Bully" and another documentary about girl bullying called "Finding Kind."
Orpheum Director Pip Gordon said they have a unique way to connect with youth through their offerings.
"We feel that through the arts we can make an impact," Gordon said. "Traditionally, with the arts we talk about socially relevant issues, especially with our youth."
The "Not In Our Town" effort will also make a presence during the National Anti-Bullying Day on Oct. 10.The group also plans to be visible with its message during the Oktemberfest celebration in late September.