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Respect For All Week

PS 117 Joyce Keld Briarwood School - Queens

P.S. 117 Joyce Keld Briarwood School has launched a yearlong anti-bullying campaign. 
Take a stand. Lend a hand. Stop bullying now! is normal, everyday language used by students and staff. Don’t Laugh At Me songs and workbooks are used daily. The Queens rapper, Baby Jay, has created the music for upper grades.

Principal Paula Cunningham has made a commitment to thread character development into the fiber of the school community. "This is the first year of our anti-bullying campaign. We all must be more aware of what we say and how we do things. There is a huge need for this in our world today, where we see and hear aggressive behavior all too often. Thus, we have to educate our students in ways to make good decisions." Last summer meetings with counselors, staff and administrators created a calendar at a glance for this purpose. Assemblies, workshops with staff, materials including literacy responses and class lessons, make up this year’s effort.

At the first staff meeting, teachers were greeted with materials and songs from Operation Respect. Counselors, Samantha Campbell and Terri Elias have class lessons and create student skits on the various topics. Conflict mediators have been trained to volunteer at lunch for peer to peer support, offering activities for sharing during recess. Often students remark to one another that 'it’s cool to be kind' and like the feel of wearing uniforms mandated for the first time this year. Another outcome has been the counselors creation of student volunteers, called Bully Busters, that are trained to rotate on-call at lunch. Those elected spoke at the kick-off assembly. Chants led by Mrs. Elias "if you see and hear something, DO SOMETHING" were heard. Banners, posters, announcements and hall exhibits keep anti-bullying on people’s minds. Outside the counselors offices are notebooks for comments to be left by students as to what they saw or heard around school.

It is a total school-community awareness and education program. In fact, the literacy teachers purchased books on anti-bullying and character development themes. Some of the culminating activities have been bulletin boards displayed in the front hall and lunch room.

Assemblies on respect have been a huge part of this year’s planning. Carol McCloud, author of Have you filled a bucket today? Spoke to all of the students during a day-long visit. Sixth grade students heard about bullying, cyber bullying, and teen suicide. Ryan’s Story was presented by John Halligan, whose son committed suicide after being repeatedly bullied. The School Leadership Team voted to have the parents attend their own evening presentation on this topic. Also, Steve Seskin, songwriter and recorder of Don’t Laugh At Me, was recently here to sing and speak with our students.

At P.S. 117, there is a zero tolerance policy for teasing and taunting. Students are welcomed as peer leaders. The staff is encouraged to find ways to bring materials and programming to Principal Cunningham. There's a feeling of positive peer pressure to treat others with respect. The P.S. 117 community believes that by working together they can achieve excellent behavior.

This story is part of a series to promote the ongoing school-based programs and activities through the Respect For All initiative.