WEST ORANGE, NJ -  As this year's Week of Respect comes to a close in West Orange and public schools statewide, the West Orange Alternative Press asked our high school TAP team to weigh in with their thoughts on bullying and the Week of  Respect.  Most, if not all, of the writers have gone to school in West Orange from Kindergarten and are now Juniors and Seniors, participating in a diverse school community and being encouraged to respect one another from a young age. Here's what they had to say:

John Aristizabal

Although I was never really bullied, I have witnessed many other kids being bullied. I have helped some of my friends that have been bullied; however, it is very challenging to stop all bullies. People that bully sometimes do it just to fit in, which is pretty crazy.  They have to realize that they should just be themselves. Other people bully because they themselves were actually bullied at some point in their life. I think that in that situation, the bully should just talk to an adult that will help with the situation. Tolerance and respect are very important in a large diverse high school because everyone is different and everyone must be able to work in harmony.

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Evan Easterling

Bullying is a problem that needs to be addressed at every grade level of school. Bullying is something that many people may think it is not as important an issue or as prevalent as is perceived, but is important to discuss. In recent years, those who have been bullied have been given increased options for help and the issue has been brought into the public eye. Suicides and self inflicted violence have been prevented and parents have been made aware. Although it is difficult to prevent all bullying, because a lot of it occurs behind the shield of computer screens and smart phones, I believe bullying is being reduced throughout the country. The most important level where bullying can be stopped is at the personal level. The person who is the bystander or gets involved to help is the key to stop a bully. Increased awareness of bullying, such as West Orange High School's Week of Respect, and actions taken at the legislative level are all steps to reduce and hopefully end all bullying. The anti-bullying laws enacted by many states, including New Jersey, are good steps that have been taken towards the elimination of bullying. No child should ever face physical, verbal, or any other form of bullying for their religion, creed, race, sexual orientation, or any other reason. I hope to see the day when this is a reality and not a dream.

Josh Feinblatt

When I was young I always though that bullying was some big kid coming up to you and taking your lunch money. When I entered middle school, I quickly found out that wasn't the case. Bullying is all over, no matter where you go, just because teenagers in general can be the most brutal people on the planet. I've fortunately never had the displeasure of being bullied by someone, but my best friend has. My best friend was made fun of constantly by a group of kids throughout their middle school years. To this day, my friend has times when the group of guys (which my friend doesn't see/speak to anymore) still cause insecurities and bad emotions. While bullying today is not witnessed as much as in past generations (or at least on TV), it is still quite a prominent issue. I think West Orange has dealt with situations pretty well, of the few that i've seen. Yet, nobody will know if somebody is being bullied unless somebody, whether it be the victim or someone else, lets an adult know about it. Bullying can be stopped, but the key to it is recognition of the fact that it is happening, and letting an outside force know who can handle the situation. So don't be afraid of getting beat up/made fun of by the bully if you tell somebody about your situation, because that bully won't be in school for quite a while.

Clarissa Ford

Although I have never been bullied, I’ve seen many of peers become victims of the intolerable act. Bullying displays a sign of a serious self-esteem issue. Often times those who bully have been victims themselves, but either way the harassment cannot be tolerated. Bullying doesn’t solve problems. Rather it creates them. In today’s society, bullying expands beyond school and transcends into social medias; bullying is inescapable. Too many adolescents have taken their lives over bullying, and it is time for everyone to put an end to it.  

Chris Hanley

 At sometime in every person's life they are bullied, or they are the bully.  Bullying is a part of human life that cannot be eliminated, however it can be minimized.  Our state has taken the greatest initiative in doing so.  In my sophomore year the father of Ryan Herrington, a Vermont high school student who took his life due to bullying.  I was never more moved by a speaker in my entire life shared his sons story.  Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, if the initiatives of our state's bullying campaigns can save the life of a single child they are succeeding and must be kept.

Jake Klein

The week of respect is very important to me. Mutual respect is vital to the success of any community such as a school. It's great that West Orange High School is observing this week because it is a reminder of just how important respect is. Sometimes in a competitive setting such as a school, mutual respect is not always the main thought of students. This is a great chance for students to make a conscious effort to fight bullying because almost everyone has been affected by it one way or another. 

Jake Munoz

The Week of Respect highlights the horrors of bullying and urges students to respect and tolerate all. I think this week is a big step in speaking out against bullying because everybody can learn a very important lesson from the Week of Respect. At one point, everybody has felt put down or hurt, so why should we make others feel the same when we know it's terrible? 

Over 4,400 young people commit suicide every year, many of these due to bullying, and the Week of Respect helps spread an idea that will teach students and help lower the alarming amount of suicides in teenagers. Everybody deserves to be respected, and nobody has the right to make others feel bad about themselves.

Adam Reuven

West Orange High School is a special school in the respect that the diversity helps people learn to see past the barriers of ethnicity and religion that other schools might not have the same opportunity to do. Bullying has be one of the most controversial topics over the past few years. It happens to everyone at one point of their life and many people deal with it differently. The push to control the act of one abusing or mistreating another is the proper way to approach this issue. Students and adults all have their insecurities that bring them to a point of vulnerability. To attempt to mentally weaken someone on top of that is an awful action. The golden rule, "Treat others how you would want to be treated", that we all learn in elementary school is not being followed. by many. From my perspective, having friends and family who will be there for a person will benefit he or she to help overcome bullying. People need to help others these dilemmas as none of the high school's efforts will see results if individuals do not buy in to help the cause. 

The West Orange Alternative Press has been pleased to present articles on the Week of Respect in West Orange Schools, and looks forward to providing more information on anti-violence initiatives the week of October 21-25.