Rye Neck Middle School has been at the forefront of the anti-bullying campaigns that have become integral in schools across the country.
By Janice Llanes Fabry
Rye Neck Middle School has been at the forefront of the anti-bullying campaigns that have become integral in schools across the country. Since 2007, it has employed Olweus, an internationally recognized research-based program designed to educate students about preventing and responding to bullying. Once again, Guidance Counselors Meegan Lawlor and Brendan Nelson are ensuring that anti-bullying and diversity are as much a part of a child’s education as the three R’s by incorporating the No Place For Hate program into the curriculum.
“The Olweus principles of treating others with respect, helping students who are bullied, encouraging bystanders to become ‘upstanders,’ and telling an adult when assistance is needed tie in beautifully with the No Place For Hate program,” explained Lawlor.
Created by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), No Place For Hate promotes inclusive school environments where all students are valued. Rye Neck Middle School is one of 100 schools in New York that is in the process of joining the list of No Place For Hate schools.
All sixth, seventh and eighth graders will be signing the ADL’S Resolution of Respect, which is similar to the school’s “Rules Against Bullying” already in place. They will be pledging to “gain an understanding of those who are different, speak out against discrimination, support those who are targets of hate, and recognize that promoting harmony is the responsibility of every student.”
Lawlor, who holds weekly character education classes for sixth graders, said, “We are always looking for new ways to discuss bullying. We encourage kids to think about how powerful their words and actions are. They also need to know that their behavior can have a positive impact as well.”
The seventh and eighth graders are embracing No Place For Hate as well. Nelson noted, “Seventh and eighth graders like a program in place, where they can feel like leaders, the elder statesmen whom the younger students can look up to.”
He explained that individual dignity and respect are integrated into the curriculum. While social justice is discussed in Social Studies classes, books focusing on ethical and moral dilemmas are read in English.
Throughout the year, sixth, seventh, and eighth graders will be involved in activities together. On November 27, they’ll participate in an “Olympics” with relay races, musical chairs, and Simon Says.
“We want to erase differences, including age, so the kids will be working together and crossing lines between grades,” said Nelson. “They’ll be planning, communicating, and relying on all their teammates.”
There will also be movie nights, film festivals, quilt making, and art projects. Lawlor and Nelson are looking forward to the No Place For Hate program being introduced to the high school next year, where the students can continue working on their resolutions in a more in depth manner.
In the meantime, however, Lawlor noted, “Middle school students are developmentally at an age where they can start thinking about the world at large and their place in it. Here, they can channel all their energy into making school a place where everyone feels welcome.”