HEBRON — Hebron Academy students and teachers have pledged to take a stand against bullying and to speak out for its victims.

Liz Tarr, communication coordinator, said for the past several years the Hebron Academy community holds “Ally Week” to show solidarity among students, faculty, staff and the greater community and to celebrate differences. They also hold a similar event in the spring, called “Day of Silence.”

Spearheaded by the GSTA-The Bridge, Hebron’s gay-straight ally group, the movement was born out of the crimes and suicides related to sexual orientation bullying in recent years, Tarr said. Those cases include high school student David Hernandez Barros of Long Island who took his life earlier this month; Jack Reese, a gay Utah teenager who committed suicide in April; and Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University student who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after being outed in 2010 in an online broadcast.

According to information from Hebron Academy, CBS News released an article this month asserting that bullied youth are 2.5 times more likely to contemplate suicide than their peers who have been harassed. The study found that “suicide risk increases to six-fold for kids who have experienced seven or more individual types of victimization in the past year.”

The academy cited another CBS story published earlier this year that concludes, “kids with gender nonconformity are at an increased risk for abuse.”

In a statement released this week, the academy said, “Hebron Academy acknowledges the detrimental effects of bullying on victims as well as the resounding social implications of what modern media deems a growing ‘epidemic.’”

In addition to the written pledge, the Hebron campus went “purple” for a day recently when supporters donned their best mauve, violet and lavender threads to show their solidarity and pose for a photo.

On a smaller scale, teachers and administrators re-upped their “Safe Space” stickers and added new ones to their classrooms and common spaces. Members of GSTA-The Bridge performed “Love in Every Language” at a school meeting and were photographed with “I <3 Allies” miniposters sent by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

Tarr said about a dozen or so students comprise The Bridge group. Additional teachers and students drop in at meetings and help organize events. Ally Week, while headlined by The Bridge, is a full campus effort, she said.

Throughout the year, GSTA-The Bridge helps lead and participates in programs similar to Ally Week, hosts weekly meetings, and travels off campus to connect with peer organizations or attend events. In the spring, Hebron celebrates the Day of Silence begun 17 years ago at the University of Virginia. It is a movement nationwide across school campuses, which, much like Ally Week, calls attention to bullying and harassment among communities.


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