Northern School Notebook: Jan. 25

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Falmouth students refuse to play ‘the name game’

Considering the power of words seems particularly relevant in American culture, and one group at Falmouth Middle School hopes to have students do just that.

Falmouth Middle School’s Civil Rights Team sponsored the school’s participation in the nationwide “No Name Calling Week,” an annual promotion of educational activities aimed at ending name-calling, bullying and biased-based behavior of all kinds. The activity was launched in 2004 as a collaboration between Simon and Schuster Children’s publishing and the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. No Name Calling Week emphasizes the impact of the words students use, along with the importance of creating a school where all students feeling safe and respected.

According to Patricia Ann Wright, a school counselor who co-advises the team with Kathy Zema, a Falmouth Middle School health teacher, research of schools across the U.S. show that name calling and related behavior has been responsible for students missing school, developing depression and even suicide in extreme cases. One GLSEN Study showed that during one school year, as many as two-thirds of teens reported being verbally or physically harassed because of their perceived or actual appearance, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression, race/ethnicity, disability, or religion. Many teens also reported that they heard students making negative or offensive remarks related to these characteristics in their schools. At Falmouth Middle School, the Civil Rights Team wants to be proactive and help create an atmosphere where students think about what they say and how they treat each other.

This week, Falmouth Middle School kicked-off No Name Calling Week with an inspiring presentation to the entire school by Brandon Baldwin, director of the Civil Rights Team Project. The Civil Rights Team Project is a nationally recognized initiative that was developed over 15 years ago by the the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

The Falmouth Middle School Civil Rights team made daily announcements and created bulletin boards and posters around school to publicize this week. The team is comprised of approximately 20 students from grades 6, 7 and 8 who are advocates for respect for all within the school community.

“These youngsters try to spread awareness of student civil rights, particularly those protected by Maine law, and help make the middle school a more welcoming space for all,” said Wright.

The Falmouth Middle School Civil Rights Team kicked off No Name Calling Week on Monday with an all-school presentation. Activities this week will help combat bullying, name calling and other negative behaviors.