AMESBURY — As National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month approaches, local communities are preparing to stand united against the problem by asking students to be a buddy, not a bully.
The initiative, a collaborative effort between the region's schools, police, public officials and businesses, kicks off today during an 8:45 a.m. assembly at Amesbury High School.
Similar assemblies will occur at local schools throughout the month. In addition to Amesbury, the Newburyport, Pentucket, Triton and Portsmouth, N.H., school districts are also participating in the effort, along with the police departments in the nine communities that the districts comprise.
At each assembly, school and city officials will speak to the students about bullying. Then, the students will be asked to put on wristbands that say "Be a Buddy, Not a Bully" and make a pledge to stand against bullying. The wristbands will be colored according to each school's colors. For example, Amesbury’s will be red and white.
“Bullying has been in the news and it’s gotten a lot more attention, as it should, and I thought, what could we do to help?" said Rosemary Werner of Amesbury, director of Best Foot Forward, who came up with the idea for the initiative. “So I thought that the bands are such a simple idea with a simple message.”
Werner developed the idea a few months ago after she saw a TV special on bullying. She was fascinated by how pervasive the problem is.
“A lot of famous people were bullied,” Werner said. “Bill Clinton was bullied, and after the show was over, my husband told me he’d been bullied a lot because he wore glasses.”
Werner went to Amesbury police Chief Mark Gagnon, who loved the idea, Soon, it spread to surrounding communities.
“It started out as just Amesbury and then they were kind enough to involve us,” West Newbury police Chief Lisa Holmes said. “I’m pretty excited about it because I was involved in bullying prevention for six or seven years. We went to elementary schools and did programs for the little kids, so for me, it's exciting to go back to carry on something that had started many years ago.”