Local school district shows ‘respect’ for a week

Annual event offers lessons in acceptance and anti-bullying

Orchard Valley Middle School staff members opened the Week of Respect on October 5th by sporting mismatched gear that shows “we are all different and unique.”

Washington Township Public Schools were among others across New Jersey that kicked off the No Place for Hate campaign with a Week of Respect

Students both remote and hybrid sported themed outfits of mismatched clothes on Monday and Thursday, school colors on Thursday and Friday and township attire on Wednesday.

Each day represented part of the No Place for Hate pledge all students signed at the end of the week. The mismatched clothes represented how all pupils are different and unique, while school colors remind students they are all on the same team.

“We are just trying to make it feel like positive feelings, good vibes out to the community,” said Jennifer Grimaldi, district director of school counseling. “(The students) certainly need it. We all need it. We wanted to make sure we did that as a district.”

“There is a special pledge for No Place for Hate, Grimaldi added. “In order to be a part of No Place for Hate, every level and every building needs to sign this pledge.”

This is the third year No Place for Hate has been brought to the district. The national campaign has reached more than 1,600 schools that have helped eliminate bullying and bias by having students sign the pledge to be respectful and caring to those around them. Washington Township schools have signed past pledges in creative ways, but due to COVID-19, this year was different. 

“We usually have kids make banners and have everyone sign it, and in pre-K, we actually have them put their handprint in paint on the pledge,” Grimaldi explained. “Our alternate idea was to do a pledge virtually. Each building would have students sign that they agree they will follow being open to diversity and having respect for others.”

Remote students had their own ways to join in the festivities. Along with wearing mismatched clothes and school spirit attire, they were cheered on by their teachers and principals through social media and short videos.

“We wanted to make it fun and engaging,” Grimaldi said. “Especially for our full-time remote students. We care about them and we want them to be engaged as well …  Because we are in the world of technology we are able to easily do that. You can click on a video or they receive it on Schoology.”

The district also had to switch gears when it came to planned assemblies with motivational speaker Joe Beckman, who has addressed more than 1,500 schools to teach the importance of human connection. He was scheduled to speak at assemblies across the district, but created videos for teachers to play for their students and families during Week of Respect. 

“The students have been happy and really like his energy,” Grimaldi noted. “We really want to continue that energy. Joe Beckman tries to make connections with people and he cares about the community.”

All of Beckman’s videos can be found on the district YouTube channel.