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'Be kind': MN woman encourages happiness, anti-bullying with chalk art

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Watching her neighbors and community members stroll up and down the sidewalk on a fall day last year, Nicki Brunner paid attention to how they reacted to the sidewalk chalk message she and her daughter had written.

“My 2-year-old is trying to tell you to have a happy day. You deserve it!” it said, with an arrow pointing toward a happy face.

When people paused to read it, they "smiled a smile that carried them down the block…and hopefully even farther," Brunner writes.

Now, the married mother-of-two who has lived in the Twin Cities for more than 10 years is hoping to spread that message – and the feeling it gives even complete strangers – to more people.

Friday Oct. 9 is the second "Kindness in Chalk Day," the goal being to "spread kindness by covering the sidewalks of school grounds and communities with positive words, phrases, quotes and images that speak of love, peace, hope and acceptance with the intention of bringing smiles to faces who need it the most," Brunner writes on her website, MinneMama Adventures.

Kindness in Chalk across the US

Brunner's movement – which takes place during National Bullying Awareness Month (more on that below) – is spreading across the country.

"Sometimes, all a person needs to hear is something uplifting and positive to get through a rough day," Brunner wrote on her blog for the first Kindness in Chalk. "I wanted to choose a day to give that to kids all over the Twin Cities."

A map showing participants includes pins across the United States, including in Washington, California, Georgia and New York (though the majority are clustered in Minnesota and Wisconsin).

And if you can to keep up with different chalk messages, there's a constantly-populating album of chalk encouragement from the day here.

People are also posting photos to the official Kindness in Chalk Facebook event page. Keep up on Twitter or Instagram with the #KINDNESSINCHALK hashtag

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National Bullying Awareness Month

Kindness in Chalk was spurred by National Bullying Awareness Month, an October event started by PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center.

A report from the National Center for Education Statistics found 21.5 percent of students (ages 12-18) were bullied during the 2012-13 school year.

Last year, Minnesota lawmakers passed a new anti-bullying law – aimed at addressing previous policies that had been called some of the weakest in the nation.

The new measure requires districts to track and investigate cases of bullying, and also requires schools to offer training to staff in how to prevent bullying. It also includes a section that specifically says students cannot be bullied for their sexual orientation or gender identity – an inclusion that was a point of contention at times.

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