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Kerry Kennedy, President of the RFK Center, along with human rights defenders Jamie Nabozny and Abel Barrera Hernandez visited the Beacon School on December 5 in New York City to meet with students about the importance of standing up for human rights. During the discussion, Kennedy also introduced a new lesson from the Speak Truth To Power curriculum on bullying. The lesson features the story of Jamie Nabozny and his ongoing anti-bullying work across the country. The Beacon School, represented at the event by principal and co-founder Ruth Lacey, global history teacher David McDougal and a group of inquisitive and thoughtful students grades 9-12, is a school that focuses on technology and arts to help their students in an “ever-expanding and complex world.”
The discussion opened with words of encouragement from Kerry Kennedy and Dick Iannuzzi, president of the New York State United Teachers, telling the students that “every single person has [moral courage] inside them” and that “the future really depends on all of you speaking truth to power.”
After their opening, the newest Speak Truth To Power human rights defender, Jamie Nabozny, shared with the students his harrowing personal experiences with being bullied. Jamie echoed the theme of the importance of an individual making a difference when he said that even one person’s voice would have made all the difference to him when he was harassed in high school. The students were incredibly attentive and receptive to Jaime’s talk, even letting out an excited shout when he revealed that he had won his case against the school system that allowed bullies to continue to harass him with no fear of consequences.
Following his talk, the students took part in a question and answer session with Jamie, RFK Human Rights Laureate Abel Barrera of Mexico and Kerry Kennedy. When asked why he decided to leave a PhD program to become a human rights defender working with some of Mexico’s poorest citizens, Abel responded, “they may not have material things to give you, but they'll give you their heart." Afterwards, the students and speakers mingled, and teacher David McDougal vowed to help bring the Speak Truth To Power curriculum to this fantastic school.
For Teachers and Students:
New Anti-Bullying Lesson Plan (featuring profile of Jamie Nabozny)
Definition: Bullying is an act of repeated aggressive behavior in order to intentionally hurt another person, physically or mentally. It necessarily implies an intention to harass or act arrogantly toward a colleague, particularly in the school, either in a direct way (disturbing physically or psychologically) or indirectly (excluding and isolating.) Today there is more attention regarding the issue, especially because of the potentially harmful consequences it can have on character development and well-being of young people. Recent incidents of cyber-bullying, the use of the Internet, cell phones or other devices to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person, have resulted in deaths and caused authorities to take note and try to address the dangerous trend.
How to Combat Bullying: The STTP lesson on bullying, “Bullying: Language, Literature and Life”, is aimed at prevention and a comprehensive approach including teaching skills of empathy and dealing with the victim, the bully and bystanders. Anti-bullying activist, Jamie Nabozny contends that zero tolerance does not work, instead educators need to seize the teachable moment. In general, the primary goal of the STTP human rights curriculum, is to teach students that in the face of injustice and inequality, whether it be bullying, environmental degradation or domestic violence, they must abandon the role of bystander and stand up and speak out.
The RFK Center and its partners advocate engaging students in civic responsibility, and that training and education are carried out throughout schools and communities to empower bystanders to intervene, to ensure the emotional and physical safety of the victim, and to come to understand the motivation of the bully.