WARREN, NJ - Watchung Hills Regional High School students spoke at the last Warren Township Committee meeting and asked that March 7 to be declared a White Out in Warren Township.
The White Out Against Bullying is a day where a community stands up to the bullies of the world and pledges to “Speak Up. Stand Up. Stop Hate.” To remind children and adults alike of the consequences of hateful words and actions as well as encourage them to defend victims.
This year, the White Out Against Bullying will be on Friday, March 7.
Last year, what began as a simple plan to have every student and teacher at Watchung Hills wear white on March 8, 2013, quickly grew into a legislative initiative. Local town councils issued official proclamations declaring a town-wide White Out Against Bullying event and the Not In Our School organization produced a documentary on the event. During last year’s White Out Against Bullying day, government officials met with students of Watchung Hills Regional High School, spoke on the importance of their efforts, and demonstrated support for the cause.
On that day, members of the Diversity Club also traveled to local elementary and middle schools to speak to students on a personal level. At each school, students and teachers alike pledged to be upstanders against bullying by signing a banner. The week of White Out last year also included anti-bullying presentations as well as a student-faculty volleyball game to raise awareness and encourage a sense of community.
“We’re so excited that our White Out is getting so much attention from the NJEA (New Jersey Education Association) and local newspapers. We have hopes to organize a state wide white out to erase bullying,” said Blake Shapiro at the meeting. "It would be amazing to see the people of New Jersey come together one day to say, ‘we’re not going to tolerate hate in our schools and communities.’”
The White Out Against Bullying aims to prevent bullying by targeting not only the bullies, but also encouraging bystanders to take action against bullying. New Jersey has very rigid harassment, intimidation and bullying laws which have facilitated a community that is aware of and adamantly against any form of hate.
The students have a meeting scheduled with Assemblyman Bramnick to present the project in Trenton in hopes of creating legislation to make White Out an official statewide event.
“We have high goals and one day even hope to have a nation wide White Out and erase bullying forever,” said Andrew Shapiro at the meeting.
“The goal of the White Out was to raise awareness on the issue of bullying,” Andrew Stein said. “The motive we had in mind was to educate the younger children so that the knowledge on how to prevent and deal with bullying was implemented. This year we hosted a workshop and brought classes of middle schoolers over from various districts. At this conference we discussed the motives on how to deal with bullying and how to bring the message back to their schools. Our mini-conference was based off the, ‘How To Start Your Own White Out Guide.’”
The guide can be found on the “Not In Our Town” web site, at http://www.niot.org/nios/lesson/how-start-your-own-anti-bullying-white-out.
Committeewoman Carolann Garafola, who is also the executive director of Mount Bethel Village, a facility for special needs adults, commented on last year’s program.
“A number of my residents from Mount Bethel were invited to the high school to meet with a couple of AP classes, and they told their own stories. These are members with special needs, over 21 years,” Garafola said. “I have to tell you, some of the high school students were in tears when they heard the stories of how some of how my adults were treated through school. They have not stopped talking about it for months after it. They were really moved.”
Mayor Gary DiNardo said," You’re doing a great job. It's a great message to send. Keep up the great work and we’ll definitely be doing a proclamation from our Township Committee.”
The club's website says,"Imagine a football stadium riddled with black clad spectators, hungry for victory and singularly against the white clad opponents on the bleachers across from them. This is what unity looks like, aesthetically speaking. If hundreds of students can unite over a touchdown, they can just as easily unite over an ideology: tolerance. "