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Family delivers powerful anti-bullying message at NHS
According to New Jersey mom Jane Clementi, her family was typical, normal - happy, successful, but nothing made them stand out or attract public attention as her children grew up.
That all changed in September, 2010 however when her son, 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, died after jumnping from the George Washington Bridge in New York shortly after an incident in his dorm room that eventually made international headlines. Tyler, who was gay but had not yet come out publicly, was captured on video in an intimate encounter with a man by his roommate who had secretly set up a computer webcam to broadcast remotely. The roommate detailed the encounter on social media, going as far as to invite others to view the video as it happened.
In the five years since their tragic loss, the Clementi family has devoted themselves to addressing the issues around bullying and cyber-bullying. They created the Tyler Clementi Foundation, devoted to creating "safe, inclusive and respectful social environments in homes, schools, campuses, churches and the digital world for vulnerable youth, LGBT youth and their allies."
As part of their work, Clementi family members speak at schools throughout the country, telling their story and offering options for at-risk youth to seek help before making tragic, permanent decisions, as well as teaching all students about what constitutes bullying, the physical and emotional scars that can result from bullying, and ways to identify and prevent bullying and cyber-bullying in a variety of social settings.
When NHS senior Emma Stewart heard about the Tyler Clementi Foundation through a social media posting by NHS English Teacher Suzi Drake over the summer, she asked if the Clementis could bring their important message to students at Neshaminy. Through the NHS Interact Club, the Clementis were contacted and invited to Neshaminy. On Thursday October 8, Jane Clementi and her son (and Tyler's brother) James Clementi addressed two assemblies at NHS.
According to principal Dr. Rob McGee, the purpose of the assembly was to uphold one of the guiding principles of the school, "...to appreciate and accept the differences among us." He urged his students to take that to "the another level, not to just accept and appreciate differences, but to also be part of a bigger solution."
One of the ways students can do that is by taking an 'Upstander Pledge' which includes passages about not only avoiding bullying in all forms personally, but also taking a leadership role in confronting bullying in school, at home, on social media, and at outside activities and by offering support to victims of bullies.
Following the address by the Clementis, a large group of upperclassmen ringed the auditorium and read the pledge out loud.
The students were introduced to the new #Day 1 campaign of the Foundation. #Day1 is a comprehensive program that aims to educate students, set clear guidelines and expectations and have them take the Upstander Pledge at the beginning of the school year or even during orientation. The campaign is seeking support of major foundations, and will incorporate the latest and best research on bullying prevention in their materials. #Day1 is also reaching beyond schools into community groups, work places, churches, homes, and through social media.
Students at Neshaminy will be invited to take and sign the Upstanders Pledge by signing colored cards on a copy of the pledge in the hub at NHS.