Jr./Sr. High School Students 'Don't Stand By for Bullying'
A group of students in eighth and ninth grades received awards in an anti-bullying contest
Bullying is a hot topic in schools, with recent anti-bullying legislation and high profile cases. Locally, students are taking a stand against bullying and some have been rewarded for their efforts.
Two groups of students at Westwood Jr./Sr. High School were recently awarded certificates in the "Don't Stand By for Bullying" contest put on by the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office.
Eighth grade members of The Anti-Bullying Club (TABC) created a 20-slide PowerPoint presentation for the contest which outlined what their club was all about.
Student Assistance Counselor Jillian Carpino, who helped students create the club, said a group of 13 to 15 eighth-graders meet each Thursday for an hour, missing half their study hall and lunch, to discuss the issue of bullying and come up with methods to raise self esteem and forgive bullies so they can move on with their lives. Carpino said TABC is the first anti-bullying club created in the county.
Eighth-grader Kaitlin Chesley explained that the group began after she and another student felt bullied and wanted a club that could help people in that type of situation.
"I know this club has helped a lot of people with self esteem. It's helped me personally," Chesley said. "I'm able to answer questions in class and walk with my head up. I wasn't able to do that before this club started."
TABC member Laura Bonerbo said, "The goal is forgiveness but I think it all starts with self esteem. If you can't hold your head up high like Kaitlin then you can't forgive anyone because you can't forgive yourself."
The Bergen County Prosecutor's Office chose the PowerPoint presentation as the winner for the eighth grade level. TABC member Rachel Steinberg said, "We included different kinds of bullying, how they all hurt and how it makes each person feel and basically what we're all here for."
The group is proud of the recognition. "We felt really excited and happy," Catherine Clinton said. Julia Cherruault called the process "very rewarding."
Sentiments were similar for the ninth-graders who won for their video at the ninth grade level in the "Don't Stand By for Bullying" contest. Four students in Jody Lazarski's Digital Media class created a one-minute, seven-second public service announcement about bullying that was recognized.
Ninth-grader Colin Keating said the video is about a kid who is bullied at school. The student goes to his teacher, but the teacher doesn't recognize what's going on and gives the victim and the bully detention. Keating said the victim is then scared to go back to school. The students said they highlighted statistics about bullying at the end of the PSA.
"It was a proud moment," said Raechel Sontag about winning the contest. "It was kind of surprising. We're just some freshmen at a high school."
Carpino said one of the most important lessons students can learn about bullying "is not to be a bystander, but be an upstander." She said teaching students how to defend themselves and how to forgive the bully are topics of conversation for TABC and students in general.