In an effort to raise awareness on bullying in schools, the Burlington Township Middle School community held its first “Walk Against Bullying” event this month.
The event, which was held at the middle school on Oct. 18, invited students and staff members to walk around the campus in recognition of National Bullying Awareness month. This school-wide event, which was coordinated by vice principal April Gittens, began with a warm-up from the physical education teachers, a walk around the school and ended with a celebration activity. More than 1,000 members of the school community wore orange clothing in a stance against bullying.
Gittens said the initiative came about as part of the school’s curriculum and culture, which she said is focused on students treating each other with respect.
“It was National Bullying Awareness Month, and we always have challenges and activities for the students, and we started off the year by giving them anti-bullying awareness sessions, so they know what to look for or do if they feel as if they are being bullied or if someone else is being bullied,” Gittens said. “It came about last year when we thought, ‘What can students do to become an active part in being advocates against bullying?’ or doing the right thing and being kind to people. So, we came up with the ‘Walk Against Bullying.’”
The middle school vice principal said at the beginning of the school year, students participated in interactive anti-bullying lessons, which mirrored the school’s core values: respect, responsibility and courtesy. Gittens said the students also took a pledge against bullying all month long with respect challenges, anti-bullying activities and unity trees.
Middle school officials noted that alongside Gittens, the initiative for the event came to fruition through the combined efforts and planning from the teachers and faculty, student counsel, student leaders and parents.
“We came together to make this happen because we felt it was really important in this day and age to show kids that they can take an active stance by doing something positive and together,” Gittens said. “What’s beautiful about it is that students who may have bullied another student or a student that may have been bullied can all come together and relate to this – to stand up against it and make a change.
“We want to make sure that we are not just talking about being respectful, responsible and showing courtesy toward one another, but we want to stand up. We want to make sure we are showing the students how to do that,” Gittens added.
Following the success of the Burlington school’s first event this year, Gittens explained the middle school officials already have ideas in mind for next year and aspire to make it an annual happening. The vice principal also said she would like to see it become a district-wide event.
In preparation for next year’s planned walk, Gittens said the school community is hopeful they can encourage additional student participation in the event.
“It’s a great event, and we are looking to make it an annual thing,” she said. “What we are planning to do is to find a way for the students to teach other students about what the signs of bullying are and how they can be an upstander while making sure they remain safe. Everyone’s hands went into this event to make it happen, but we really want to see the students take the charge next year to make it their vision and how they feel it should be.”
Following this year’s walk, Gittens noted the success of the event could have not been possible without the support of Burlington Township community outside of the school, too. The vice principal explained the school district’s multiple partners had a helping hand in the event as well, which she said she felt reflected the community.
“Burlington Township itself is really a community, and it wasn’t just us, but our school resource officers who were involved to make sure everyone was safe and our administrators who came,” she said. “It’s just beautiful to see how we all work together as a team, and that’s why something like this was possible.”