This Wednesday, more than 400 Gorton Junior High School students walked right out of their classes in protest.
This movement, however, was not against homework, tests or papers but of bullying. For the fourth time in as many years, Gorton School held its anti-bullying march. More than 95 percent of the junior high, plus faculty and staff, paraded from the school, down Sandy Lane, to the Meadowbrook Stop & Shop and back. With a police escort, the kids skipped and sang down the sidewalks, receiving honks of support from passing vehicles. At the supermarket, the halfway mark of their route, participants received cold bottles of water to keep hydrated in the wake of the hot spring sun. Halfway through the three-mile trek, in an attempt to regain the enthusiasm and energy of the walkers, a half-dozen exuberant kids broke out into song, yielding laughs from the crowd.
With a grant from the Warwick Prevention Task Force, Gorton School was able to acquire custom t-shirts for every walker. The shirts, reading “Stand Together, Respect Others, Never Give In,” are a way to literally unite the school under a common cause. Looking back down the road and seeing the massive, unified crowd of students and teachers alike was quite a sight. Principal of Gorton School Jeff Taylor said that the school administration “wanted to make a visible presence; a representation of our commitment to stop bullying.” This presence was certainly felt throughout the Gorton community yesterday.
Taylor emphasized the importance of the support of local organizations, such as Stop & Shop’s refreshments donation, which serves as a tangible reminder of the success of the anti-bullying movement.
Serving as chief organizer of this event all four years of its existence is Susan Thomas, the eighth-grade English teacher.
“It really brings the kids together and helps them think about their actions,” said Thomas.
Rather than collect monetary funding, her event seeks to raise awareness in the community, helping to improve the values and principles of the neighborhood.
Joining Gorton School in its hike down Sandy Lane were local guests of honor Richard D’Agostino, superintendent of Warwick Public Schools, and Mayor Scott Avedisian. Both spoke briefly at an all-school assembly prior to the walk in support of the ardent anti-bullying campaign of the school.
“Every student has the right to come into school, or into work, and not fear being harassed or bullied,” said D’Agostino.
He feels that this event has a tremendous positive effect on the community, teaching students to unite under a common cause and work together. Avedisian spoke about his experience being harassed and discussed how to confront a bully.
“When you’re being bullied, don’t become a bully yourself,” he said. “Let’s not become what we don’t like.”
After they returned to the school, the student body rushed off to finish their classes and to prepare for the Honors Night ceremonies later that evening.