Whether virtual or in-person, students and staff in Westfield Public Schools participated in lessons and activities emphasizing the meaning of respect and the different ways people show it during the Week of Respect Oct. 5 – 9, observed annually by public school districts across New Jersey, school officials say.

“We call it the Week of ‘Extra’ Respect because respect for self, respect for others, and respect for the community is an ideal reinforced in our district throughout the school year,” says Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan.

Each of the district’s 10 schools continued to focus on social and emotional learning and character education, officials say.

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Special activities taking place at the elementary schools during the Week of Respect included a continued focus on the Six Pillars of Character, lessons and stories on inclusiveness and promoting tolerance, clothing-themed days, as well as kindness motivational videos and songs, the district says.

There were virtual lessons on respect for the youngest learners at Lincoln School and respect-themed stories including “What if Everyone Did That” by Ellen Javernick and “Should I Share My Ice Cream” by Mo Willems, according to the school district.

At the middle schools, students heard special morning announcements read by members of the No Place for Hate committees, wore themed items of clothing, and were reminded of the importance of Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying (HIB) Prevention. There were similar activities at Westfield High School where the No Place for Hate Committee now has nearly 80 members.

“One example that illustrates how the Week of Respect is practiced year-round in Westfield Public Schools is the tutoring program supported by the Police Athletic League (PAL) so that all WHS students have access to tutoring assistance,” Dolan says. “This program, in existence for many years, continued even as the pandemic hit, with teachers and students gathering virtually once a week to help one another with assignments and to engage in discussion and socialization.”

Dolan says those wishing to volunteer for the PAL program or to receive tutoring should contact WHS Assistant Principal Warren Hynes at whynes@westfieldnjk12.org.

“These are just a few of the many activities taking place across the district during the Week of ‘Extra’ Respect,” adds Dolan. “I am thankful that we have so many caring teachers, administrators, and other staff who model respectful behavior every day and who are committed to providing for both the academic and emotional well-being of their students, especially during this challenging time.”

New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act of 2010 requires that school districts designate the week beginning with the first Monday in October of each year as the Week of Respect to recognize the importance of social and emotional learning and character education by providing age-appropriate instruction focused on preventing HIB.