LAKELUZERNE- Alarmed at the new prevalence of computer-aided forms of harassment, a group of students and staff members at Hadley-Luzerne High School recently decided to take a stand, and they launched an anti-bullying campaign.
Since mid-january, they've worked to create an atmosphere of acceptance, tolerance and respect throughout their school, while fighting bullying and intolerance.
Several months ago, these students and staff formed the school STOP Committee to achieve their mission. STOP is an acronym for Students Together Opposing Prejudice.
STOP Committee members have been visiting classrooms to share their values and talk about how tolerance of diversities can create a positive, friendlier school environment with better outcomes for all.
The student presentations were based on what they learned at a STOPConference Jan. 14 at Siena College in Loudonville.
Sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League, the conference brought together schools from all over the Capital District and North Country. At the event, students participated in various workshops, sharing their personal experiences with bullying and learning techniques to achieve their mission to promote understanding and tolerance.
They also learned that bullying has been exacerbated by the power of computers, cell phones and the Internet, whether it's mass email or text messaging or postings on social networking sites.
To fight such practices, the Hadley-Luzerne STOP group adopted the slogan "Don't Stand By - Stand up!" and held a poster and logo contest in addition to their classroom visitations. In April, former School Resource Officer Trooper Phil Poitier presented bullying information to the student body.
Future plans for the group include creating T-shirts bearing the logo: "Accept/Tolerate/Respect," collaborating with school staff and administrators to develop and publish an anti-bullying policy, and holding community information meetings and presentations.
Plans are also underway to educate and train staff with specific strategies to respond to bullying within the school community.
The goal of the Hadley-Luzerne STOP Committee is to have a school where all students accept each other, tolerate and celebrate individuality, and treat each other with respect, high school Principal Beecher Baker said Tuesday.
He praised this year's Senior class for deciding to bypass the school's traditional "Senior prank" and do something to boost tolerance instead: purchasing the Anti-Bullying T-shirts for the entire school body.
"Creating a positive school environment is a number-one priority in education," Baker said. "And this student-led effort, with kids taking leadership roles - even making presentations at faculty meetings - is just outstanding."
(Journal Editor Thom Randall contributed to this report.)