On Wednesday, November 16th, the faculty at Excel Charter School, located at 956 East 82nd Street, launched Be A Friend: An Anti-Bullying Initiative, aimed at getting students to appreciate differences in others as well as gain a clearer understanding of the impact of bullying on its victims.
The event, which was organized by Dominique London, a Special Education teacher at the school, was held in collaboration with elected community officials and the NYPD. London explained that it was important to partner with the two “as a means of joining forces and further reaching the community.” She also stated, “I would like to get some of our scholars into the Explorers Program, the Man Up! program as well as programs for boys with incarcerated fathers. I’m also starting a student safety patrol group, so NYPD could come in and train the students.”
The initiative was an extension of Anti-Bullying Awareness Month, which is observed in the U.S. during October. Many of the students demonstrated a keen sense of what constitutes bullying by identifying some of the warning signs. They also understand the importance of speaking to someone they trust about it. Keiacha Linton, an 8th-grader and member of the student council, shared the story of a family member who had been bullied at school but did not report the incident to anyone. The trauma the victim experienced caused her to pick at her hair, pulling out strands, daily. Eventually, she opened up to her parents who took action and the bullying stopped.
Other students shared personal stories of bullying and the ensuing, long-lasting trauma they endured. A short film depicting a meeting between a former bully and her victim, 15 years later, was rife with tears, anger and obvious pain, on both sides. The remorseful bully disclosed that at the time, she too was being bullied by other students and neighborhood kids, because she was underweight. The victim said she coped by bullying someone else. Ironically, her victim was an overweight student from her neighborhood.
Councilwoman Mercedes Narcisse told the packed auditorium, “Very often when someone bullies another, it’s because they’re looking for a friend. So, when you see that happening, be a friend. Be kind and support each other.” Narcisse also commended the staff for their impressive leadership. “This is an excellent example of what a family school should be.”