MWDN: Sen. Eldridge speaks to Northborough students about bullying

By Evan Lips
Apr 16, 2010

NORTHBOROUGH -Months after anti-bullying advocate John Halligan moved an assembly of Melican Middle School students with the story of his son’s suicide, his message lives on.

State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, made an appearance yesterday at the middle school library, fielding questions from students about how proposed anti-bullying legislation will affect their school.

While members of Assistant Principal Michelle Karb’s TASK group (Teachers, Administrators, and Students for Kids) lobbed questions at Eldridge, students said they worried Halligan’s message was fading.

“During the weeks after his (Halligan’s) visit, everybody was so much nicer to each other,” eighth-grader Jenna Ferrini told Eldridge. “But the feeling began to wear off after that and kids started bullying each other again.”

Halligan’s late-January visit to Melican came at a critical time, just weeks after South Hadley resident Phoebe Prince committed suicide and a little over a month before the state Senate passed sweeping legislation aimed at curtailing bullying in schools and online.

“The final bill should pass within a month and the governor should sign it before summer,” Eldridge told students. “Our goal is to have it in place before school starts this fall.”

Students like sixth-grader Mike Upton wanted more details.

“Does the bill apply to people who are bullied after school?” Upton asked.

Eldridge said the cyber-bullying kids face online would count if it affects life at school. He also stressed that the bill is intended to give principals and teachers more responsibilities over how to address bullying.

“Our intention is for teachers to be trained on how to deal with these issues so we can help prevent them before something bad happens,” he said.

Eldridge also told students that the stack of letters they sent to his office helped make a difference.

“We hear from adults all the time on various issues,” he said. “But when we hear from students like you, that’s what really gets our attention.”

Thus far, Melican Middle School is the first school in Eldridge’s 14-town district.

Eldridge’s visit was largely the result of Melican’s TASK force, Assistant Principal Michelle Karb said after the meeting. She acknowledged that while Halligan’s presentation made an impact on students, efforts to curb bullying should continue.

“It’s important to keep that momentum going,” she said. “When we’ve got a bullying problem on our hands we have the kids come to the office and watch the video of John’s (Halligan) presentation so they can relive that message.”

At the close of the meeting, Principal Pat Montimurro stressed the importance of the students’ work.

“In the end they are the nucleus of this school,” she said.

Eldridge agreed.

“Keep on writing these letters, you have no idea what kind of an impact they have on us,” he said.

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