FARMINGTON — It can be hard and uncomfortable to speak up about domestic violence and sexual abuse but that didn’t stop a freshman English class at Mt. Blue High School.

After reading the book “Speak” in class, the students held signs and sought a petition pledge from people in downtown Farmington on Thursday.

Teacher John Schoen wanted to do something more, something to end the study of the book written by Laurie Halse Anderson, he said.

Honks, thumbs up and waves, about 74 in less than hour, showed support for the seven students, Schoen and his wife, Patty, as they stood outside the Farmington post office from 8 to 11:30 a.m.

“We’re here to help stop sexual violence,” Sean Testa of Weld said. “It isn’t right.”

Testa and Dakota Nida of Farmington prepared to walk Main Street seeking signatures for a pledge started by the students from the Gold Day English class of 2017.

It read, in part, “We pledge to speak up and use our voices to help stop domestic violence and sexual assault.”

“We’re here to make more people aware,” Tashia Berkey of Farmington said.

“Speak” tells the story of a teen date-raped at a party. She calls police but can’t say what happened to her. Other teens face police questions about the party and ultimately everyone is mad at her, Berkey said. She lost friends, no one believed her and she became very depressed.

A near second assault helps her find her voice to speak out and regain her life and friends, she said.

“It takes a lot of strength to tell people,” Berkey said.

Class discussions of the book included working with Kristen Plummer, school-based advocate for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services of Farmington, Schoen said.

The study also raised conversations about bullying.

“I hadn’t thought about kids being bullied at school,” Nate Everett of Farmington said about the book and the way the main character was treated.

“They took advantage of her and she suffered,” Jonah Bragg of Farmington said.

Abuse, violence, assault and bullying caused the students to face their own discomfort and talk about them, stand on a sidewalk and hold signs high in demonstration, Schoen said.

“We’re here to stop domestic abuse and for the victims of sexual assault,” Everett said. “‘Cause it’s a big problem. People don’t realize till it happens to them.”

About one-third of teens are affected by dating violence, Testa said.

Along with the demonstration, class assignments included a final essay. They did really well, Schoen said. Many were heart-rendering; some students had stories of their own to tell, he added.

“Violence is wrong and we should help stop it,” Nida said.

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