The effort to combat bullying, new to some, goes back more than a dozen years at Salem's Collins Middle School. Which is why it's appropriate that Gov. Deval Patrick chose it as the main venue for "No Name Calling Day" this week.
With a population of 660 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders that's as diverse as any in the state, the challenges facing Principal Mary Manning and her staff are formidable. But all stood proud Wednesday afternoon as they greeted the governor and pledged "to take a stand against bullying and name-calling."
Not lost on anyone was the fact that the organizer of the program and new chairman of the governor's Statewide Youth Council, Victor "Manny" Cruz, had walked the halls of Collins only a few years ago as a student.
Now a sophomore at Salem State University, Cruz connected with both students and adults in the packed gymnasium as he spoke of his own youthful misbehavior; the helping hand he'd received from mentors like Brad Maloon, the conflict resolution coordinator at Collins, and Linda Saris of Salem CyberSpace; and how Salem's familiarity with prejudice and intolerance extends all the way back to the famous witchcraft hysteria of 1692.
"There are words that cut deeper than a knife," Cruz declared at one point. "Name-calling is not OK."
"I'm proud of you all," Patrick declared as the program wound down and he presented the official proclamation of "No Name Calling Day" to Cruz.
One of the provisions of the anti-bullying legislation signed by the governor in May 2010 was to declare the fourth Wednesday in January "No Name Calling Day." There were formal observations of the occasion at a dozen schools throughout the state.
Mayor Kim Driscoll also thanked the well-behaved students along with their teachers, who, she noted, "are saving lives every day."