The day began bright and early recently, as 31 Dedham Middle School students boarded a yellow school bus with teachers Amy Gilbert, Chris Nadeau, and parent volunteer Debbie Jenest.
Behind the DMS bus was a second one, filled with over 40 Dedham High School students and teachers Katie Basque, Katelyn MacLean, Tara Fountain, and Katie Spies. These students, a cross-section of those attending both schools, had been hand-chosen from each classroom.
The buses hit the highway and headed to the 2nd Annual “Stand Up To Bullying” rally – held this year at the UMass-Lowell, Tsongas Center. Sponsored by Rick Rendon (founder of Empower Peace) and Todd Patkin (lead funder / co-chair), the 2012 rally was attended by over 5,000 middle and high school students from around New England.
The message, from a wide range of musical guests and motivational speakers, was a call to action – for students to take a stand against bullying. The “statistics” on bullying are numbing. It is estimated that over 160,000 children miss school every day across the country, out of fear of being attacked, intimidated or humiliated by fellow students.
71% of all students in America, have reported an incident of bullying – this is something that happens every 7 minutes of every school day! The “Stand Up 2012” rally had the support of over 50 local organizations, including the Ma. Teachers Assoc. – the Dept. of Education – the Assoc. of School Superintendents – Blue Cross / Blue Shield – Harvard Pilgrim Health Care – the Norfolk County Sheriff's Office – the Attorney General's Office and Radio Stations Jam'n 94.5 and Kiss 108, along with many others.
The students saw a taped message from Gov. Deval Patrick, and were asked to listen and learn what each one of them could do, to make our schools and communities a better, safer place to live.
As the morning progressed, the students were part of an experience that was designed to educate, inspire and engage them in this battle against bullying. Before heading home, there was time for each school to meet and greet students from other communities, visit an exhibition area, and take pictures with the young musical artists that had performed during the day.
Dedham Middle School Principal, Debra Gately, took full advantage of this new found enthusiasm to combat bullying, by holding three separate assemblies at the school the following day.
With the help of funding from the Dedham Education Foundation, the Dedham Middle School Parent Group and the DMS student activities fund – Ms. Gately arranged for Deanna's Educational Theater of Wakefield, Ma. to perform at the school.
The first assembly was a three character play for all of the students in grade 6.
Next was a play designed for the girls of grades 7 and 8, followed by another play designed to reach the 7th and 8th grade boys.
Reviews of Deanna's Educational Theater, indicate that their programs have had, both an immediate and a long-term effect on their audiences. All those involved, believe this to be a step in the right direction.