Three hundred NCHS students streamed into the auditorium while the songs , "We Are Family, "Respect" and "Imagine" set the stage for their "Names Can Hurt" senior class assembly on Wed., Oct 6. Led by Michele Pincince and Anne Marie Brungard-Knight from the Anti-Defamation League's A World of Difference Institute, students spoke of their own personal experiences of bullying others and being bullied themselves.
Boys engage in hazing and fighting, while girls gossip and criticize. Every victim is left feeling excluded and deeply hurt. The bystanders exhibit a mob mentality: they form the largest group, and they do nothing. If only one person stands up and says stop! they go from bystanders to allies, and can break up the mob.
NCHS Assistant Principal Dawn Bartz spoke to About Town. "We call it meanness but there is a point the line is crossed. We can all relate because at some time or another in our lives we have played one of the four roles -- perpetrator, victim, bystander and ally. The key thing is to learn how to recognize the signs." She also said that online "cyber-bullying" makes the behavior more hidden and widespread.
Junior Anne Achenbaum, is a member of the Student Advocate Club and one of 130 students who completed the Anti-Defamation league's "Names Can Hurt" training. She said, "I definitely think this will get the senior class together for our grade next year, to stop bullying and not be bystanders."
PJ Larson vowed the class of 2011 would end bullying. "More than any other class we have all been here since middle school and up! Take a look at yourself now and what you are doing. It's easy to hurt people directly, yet avoidance can destroy a person too. To bring someone else up, brings yourself up."
Other agreed they were once the meanest class at Saxe, and now with nine months left before graduation, they want to come together as the class that ended bullying at its source.
One of the analogies offered was to feeling like a worthless penny. People dismiss a penny. People dismiss a person. It's just a penny -- 'who cares?' -- becomes 'it's just a freshman,' 'it's just a senior.' Yet, when people work together even the smallest "change"' counts and can make a huge difference.
As an example that kindness, respect and consideration begins at the top, Principal 'With A Heart' Tony Pavia asked the students "What would you DO? We are going to act. We are our actions. Actions tell people who you are. Actions create hope. You shape the world not with a thought, but with an action."
About Town noticed how Mr. Pavia hugged multiple students, patted others on the back or, with direct eye contact, engaged them in what appeared to be a compliment, greeting or heartfelt remark.
His last words to the students were, "I believe the vast majority of people in any civilization are good. 'Evil triumphs when good people do nothing.' The bully can be drowned out by the bystander. The class of 2011 can change the environment and have a huge influence on this school."
The kids all passionately agreed. "I will NOT be a bystander!"