Ridge’s Week of Respect

Avani Bhargava ‘16, Editor-in-Chief

On Monday, October 5, the color blue ceremoniously graced the halls of Ridge High School.  Students donned shades of this tranquil hue with a purpose: to demonstrate solidarity against bullying and to kick off Ridge’s Week of Respect, an ambitious initiative to counter harassment.

In addition to the blue shirt tactic, which aligned with national “Stomp Out Bullying” World Blue Shirt Day efforts, Ridge’s anti-bullying agenda for the week included thought-provoking activities about students’ commitment to prevent bullying. One such activity, located outside the cafeteria, encouraged students to write down the first three words that sprung to mind regarding bullying prevention. Throughout the week, students could also sign the Anti-Bullying Pledge, a large “2015” poster which now hangs above the atrium and reminds students to respect and protect one another.

Ridge’s Ethics Club, just one of the student organizations involved in Week of Respect efforts, sent co-presidents Lianna Shimoun ’16 and Jasmine Xie ’16 to speak about the week’s events and to invite the student body to participate during Monday’s daily announcements.

During each of the following days, representatives from different student groups—including Student Government, Ridge Girls Lead, and the Ridge Peer Organization—contributed to the morning announcements, sometimes citing statistics about the consequences of bullying and other times detailing the steps students can take to address incidents of harassment.

In the words of Catherine Pankow ’17, the Week of Respect movement provided a way for “students to show proactivity” against bullying “by doing something as simple as wearing blue. It serves to show that …there is still a large presence of the community that cares.”

Some found the Week of Respect to be reminiscent of students’ conditioning against bullying since childhood; Srinivas Mandyam ’16 explains, “The week sort of served as an almost nostalgic reminder—the anti-bullying announcements specifically—to all of those anti-bullying meetings [and presentations] that we’ve had over the past 13 years here.”

The question remains: if this week served as a cumulative anti-bullying effort, did it actually reflect years’ worth of successful teachings?

Mandyam refers to the initiative as a “reminder that ‘Hey, this stuff—which a lot of us sort of laughed off at the time as some sort of scripted, overdone speech—actually had a lot of positive effects [as] evidenced by the really supportive atmosphere around here.’”

English teacher and Ethics Club Co-Advisor, Mrs. Quimby, considers the Week of Respect “absolutely” effective, explaining the candid discussion it afforded: “I have a second period class, so when the announcements come on, I always ask them to quiet down and listen, and then we would have a discussion based on that day’s topic.”

According to the New Jersey Education Association, the “Week of Respect” is officially a state-mandated event: schools must dedicate the first week of October to “age-appropriate instruction” that addresses bullying and harassment. The mandate also involves continued anti-bullying instruction throughout the year.

Is the Week of Respect a conclusive, one-shot deal or will Ridge follow through with its goal of “stomping out bullying?” If the latter is true, the Ridge High School administration and the organizations involved in orchestrating the Week of Respect have set the bar high with their efforts in October. Let us witness their strides in the months to come.