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Join Watchung Hills to Say 'Not in Our Town'

Letter to the editor

Watchung Hills Regional High School is asking all members of our greater community to wear white on Friday, March 8, in solidarity against bullying and intolerance. This day will be a culmination of the on-going initiatives at the high school to end bullying.

In March, the school will devote a week to anti-bullying initiatives. During the 1st week of March, the school will host student assemblies on diversity and bullying issues. We will launch our “White Out Against Bullying” day on Friday March 8th. We would like to invite our elementary and middle schools, local businesses, and community members to join the mission and participate in the day. We would like you to participate, too!

Here’s how you can make a difference. Our goal is to have the entire community wear white and unite against bullying and intolerance; let’s say “NOT IN OUR SCHOOL; NOT IN OUR COMMUNITY.”

Watchung Hills has been proactive in a mission to end bullying and intolerance in our school and our community. Over the last 2 years, the school has won state and national recognitions for the anti-bullying work of our staff and students. Our school works closely with Facing History and Ourselves to weave themes of diversity, Identity, We and They, and individual choices into history lessons and curriculum. In addition, the school is an active member of the Not In Our Schools campaign.

For more than a decade, Not In Our School (NIOS) has inspired students of all ages to develop and share innovative ways to resist bullying and promote an atmosphere of acceptance and inclusion.

Our students were filmed for a NIOS lesson on cyber-bullying. Watchung Hills High School was selected by a video production company entitled the Working Group to film a class lesson on bullying and tolerance on March 11th and 12th, 2011. The video was released on the Not in Our Schools website Martin Luther King Day 2012. Watchung Hills High School was selected because of the proactive programs and lessons implemented by the staff. The focus of our video is on one’s on-line identity and how to handle cyber-bullying issues. The students created a mission statement and action plan for the school to foster diversity and tolerance.  

Watchung Hills students worked cooperatively with guidance from the Arts Department to create artwork that reflected the core
themes of the class lesson. The Watchung Hills High School video is the foundation for a bullying curriculum offered by NOIS and used in schools across the nation. You can view the documentary at: http://www.niot.org/nios-video/students-take-cyberbullying

October is anti-bullying month. This year, a group of our students were selected to participate in a panel discussion on Cyber-bullying and the use of social media at LaGuardia High School, N.Y., on Oct. 2. The event,“Digital Citizenship Day” was filmed and moderated by MTV news director Sway Calloway. The video and blog can be viewed at http://www.niot.org/blog/youth-digital-activists-speak-new-york-digital-citizenship-day-town-hall

Under the leadership of our Harassment, Intimidation & Bullying officers, our school has hosted a number of activities. During Oct. 17-18th, upper-classmen, teachers, and community members had the opportunity to participate in Challenge Day. The Challenge Day mission is to provide youth and their communities with experiential programs that demonstrate the possibility of love and connection through the celebration of diversity, truth and full expression.” The next week, Michael Fowlin, clinical psychologist with a doctorate from Rutgers University, presented “You Don’t Know Me Until You Know Me” and “I Am Not The Enemy” to our freshman class on Oct. 25th in the morning, with a second presentation to all parents and members of our community in the evening of Oct. 25. Dr Fowlin has an exciting program that explores the issues of race, discrimination, violence prevention, and personal identity. This presentation was a cooperative initiative between the school and the PTO.

In addition to our events in March, students will participate in another anti-bullying initiative in January through participation in “No Name-calling Week.” “No Name-Calling Week" was inspired by a young adult novel entitled "The Misfits" by popular author, James Howe. The book tells the story of four best friends trying to survive the seventh grade in the face of all too frequent taunts based on their weight, height, intelligence and sexual orientation/gender expression. Motivated by the inequities they see around them, the "Gang of Five" (as they are known) creates a new political party during student council elections and run on a platform aimed at wiping out name-calling of all kinds. Though they lose the election, they win the support of the school's principal for their cause and their idea for a "No Name-Calling Day" at school.

It is evident that the elimination of intolerance is important to our staff and students. But there is always more that can be done. To that end, the school is hoping to include our greater community in our mission. Please consider participating in the Friday March 8,“White Out.” Let’s stand in solidarity and say, “Not in our town!”

T-shirts with “Not In Our Schools” printed on them will be available for purchase on the school’s website, or you may choose to simply wear white.

Sarah Decker 

Monica Mahal

Kelsey Conway

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