BY ETHAN FORMAN STAFF WRITER
The Salem News
---- — DANVERS — The orange tablecloths decorating tables in the cafeteria of Holten Richmond Middle School yesterday were not put out for Halloween, but as an outward sign that staff and students at the sixth-through-eighth-grade school are taking a stand against bullying.
Yesterday, the school held a unity lunch in which teachers sat with students during the school’s four lunch periods, meaning things were noticeably quieter than usual, observers said.
The lunch was part of a monthlong effort recognizing National Bullying Prevention Month, with a variety of events planned by students and staff. One visible sign of the effort was an orange anti-bullying banner with student and staff signatures that was hung on windows outside the cafeteria. This banner was created Oct. 1.
In the past few years, Danvers schools have put in place the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, with an Olweus Committee of staff, students and community members to plan events.
“We’ve been working hard to pull this together,” Assistant Principal Deborah Arno said.
The idea of the teachers sitting with students during lunch yesterday was to allow staff and kids to connect, “in order to create that close-knit school environment to lessen the chance that bullying will occur,” said guidance counselor Jill Weeks. Students also signed pledge cards that asked them to “include others,” “treat others with respect” and to come up with a few ideas of their own.
Some seventh-grade boys sitting with English teacher Betty Ann Maney not only liked it that they got to sit with a teacher, but that the school was doing something about the problem of bullying.
“It’s doing really well,” Anthony Messana said of the anti-bullying efforts. “There is definitely a lot less bullying than there has been.”
“I think it’s good,” Mitchell Lentine said. “I saw bullying at my old school. I used to be bullied a little bit. ... I would like to help stop it.”
“I think it’s great because sometimes we don’t get to see this teacher every day,” Kyle Kraft said about the chance to sit with a teacher at lunch. “This should happen every day, so you can sit with your friends and be with a teacher you only have for one hour a day.”
Other efforts this month include a “Positive Pumpkin” activity and a bullying prevention slogan contest.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.