Students learn the truth about hate and bullying

Teen peer leaders at Weston High School

Holding the letters ROPES – which stands for Respect/Risk, Openness/Ouch, Participation, Esuchar (Spanish “to listen”) and Safety are peer leaders from the anti-bullying assembly, from front left, Lucy Watson, David Silverman, Allegra Schiff, Olivia Clark, Clemmie Fellowes, Jared Weisman, Zoe Zegers, Alexandra Fontaine, Zoe Toner, Daniel Doak (Assistant Principal), Chase Pomerantz, Connor Mulchay, Arielle Wein (school counselor) – not pictured: Olivia Wolak, Elliot Eglash, Frances Holmes, Eric Bennignhoff, Megan Reilly.

Name-calling, malicious teasing, threats of physical violence, and social network harassment are hateful behaviors that many children experience at some point in their lives.

But thanks to a recent assembly, called “The Truth About Hate,” sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Weston High School freshmen have learned tips on how to take action to prevent and respond to hate, bullying and cyberbullying.

The assembly was held for ninth graders on Oct. 17, and was led by assistant principal Dan Doak, ADL facilitators Cyd Slotoroff and Ann Marie Brungard, and a group of teen peer leaders from Weston High School.

Among the topics discussed at the assembly were: What is bullying and cyberbullying; how to be an ally and take action against bullying; how to stop namecalling; and how to confront hate speech online and stop cyberbullying.

Students discussed the many layers of a “hate pyramid” and various levels of bias and prejudice.

They also watched a video about bullying, and a skit that was written by one of the teen peer leaders, demonstrating the different roles people take on when there is a bullying or hate incident.

During an “open mic” time, freshmen shared their personal stories about bullying and hate. One student expressed the need for school to be a safe place because students spend so much time there. “That was something that resonated with the group,” Mr. Doak said.

Mr. Doak described the assembly as “successful,” and said it was something he would like to hold again next year. “We are looking at ways to revamp freshman orientation and this was a good program for that,” he said.

While the high school has held anti-bullying assemblies in the past, they stopped doing so several years ago. Mr. Doak said this assembly went well and was helped by having a group of teen peer leaders participate in it.

Weston parent Amy Weisman and her son Jared Weisman, a senior at Weston High School, suggested holding the assembly after learning how successful it was in Westport.

Jared is the founder of the high school’s peer leadership group. Its 25 members underwent leadership training with the ADL and acquired skills necessary to mentor incoming freshmen, who can often be overwhelmed coming into a new school.

After the assembly, a survey was issued and students said they found the experience helpful and appreciated it.

“I think this is something we would like to do again. The students seemed comfortable and it was a natural progression from an assembly they had in middle school,” Mr. Doak said.

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