Anti-Bullying Law Highlights 'Week of Respect' in Schools
School officials say week is just the beginning of anti-bullying expectations year-round
West Orange schools aren't taking the anti-bullying laws lightly and are dedicating programming and curriculum for a "Week of Respect."
Mt. Pleasant Elementary School Principal Michael Schiavo said though the schools have a week of respect every year, "It's very important this year in respect to the new law."
Gov. Chris Christie signed the "Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights" into law early this year, which advocates say makes New Jersey the state with the strongest stance against school bullying in the nation. In accordance with that law, the West Orange Board of Education passed a Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying policy during an August meeting.
"If you're dealing with this new law it's really incumbent upon us to report any indication of bullying. We can always talk about 'don't be a bully, don't be a bully' but we need to show it more, we need to live it more," Schiavo said.
At Mt. Pleasant, Schiavo is taking a proactive approach, encouraging students to be kind to each other. Students can earn "respect bucks" for complimenting their peers and respecting their classmates. Students with the most respect bucks can earn a place in the hall of fame. Schiavo said he plans to continue the program year-round.
"It's starting to become second-nature, people are trying to be kind," Schiavo said. He said he's noticing students complimenting each other's shoes, clothes and answers to questions in class.
In Washington Elementary School Principal Marie DeMaio said the week is just a kick-off to what is expected for the entire school year. "The only way to teach children is to reinforce," said DeMaio.
Prior weeks of respect had more of an anti-violence message, said DeMaio, who has been principal at Washington School for 25 years. "This year it's geared towards the message of anti-bullying."
She said each class was informed of the new laws at the beginning of the year and parents were briefed during Back-to-School night. DeMaio said this week, the anti-bullying message is being incorporated into music, art physical education classes and in the curriculum.
On Thursday, the students wore yellow and blue to show respect and pledge to no bullying, said DeMaio. The school's front fence was dotted with blue and yellow ribbons tied around a large banner that read, "Washington School Students Pledge to 'RESPECT' One Another."
At West Orange High School, the Gay-Straight Alliance is hosting a discussion and the Honors Art Club decorated the hallways with artwork addressing themes such as tolerance and respect.
How is your school celebrating the week of respect? Add your photos or let us know in the comments.