Fort Frye starts violence prevention, anti-bullying programs

BEVERLY–Fort Frye seventh-graders through seniors are heading into this school year with an eye on inclusivity.

Early Tuesday before classes leaders from all of the grades sat with Principal Andy Schob and other school administrators to discuss how as students they can prevent violence in its many forms.

“We have some well-established groups and we’re adding this component but we want them to work together and share resources,” explained Schob. “But we want to emphasize it’s student-led and we’re simply here, Dr. (Stephanie) Starcher is here to provide whatever resources and connections you need.”

These components of the new SAVE program, or Students Against Violence Everywhere, include the No More movement, targeting issues of domestic violence and sexual assault, the Students Demand Action initiative, the Say Something campaign and now the Start With Hello program.

SAVE is a program developed out of Sandy Hook Promise, a training initiative born out of the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut in 2012 where 20 children and six adult staff members where shot to death.

Students Demand Action targets political activism through registering community members to vote, encouraging active participation in the press and local politics and holding legislators accountable to thorough decision making.

“We practice writing letters to the editor, getting people registered and really being informed by the time we head to the polls,” explained Danielle Thrasher, 16, of Lowell.

The Say Something campaign launched with a red and blue bracelet (the school’s colors) found on many of the students in the halls, and even Superintendent Starcher.

“I wear it every day as a reminder,” she explained, challenging the students to look daily at how they can craft a culture that prevents violence. “You can’t wait until an assembly or a week of awareness. Those who self-harm or harm others put off warning signs and alienate themselves. You have to change the daily culture of an environment, it’s a daily commitment.”

Recruiting for the final component, Start With Hello, begins next week.

“I think as teens we have that social anxiety and get too comfortable in our own groups or cliques,” explained Kasey Buchanan, 17, of Lowell.

“Or especially with underclassmen we freeze, like they don’t know what to do with someone saying hi,” chimed in Lydia Klinger, 15, of Churchtown.

But the target of Start With Hello is about reaching out and breaking down perceived barriers between groups, new students and others on the outskirts.

One form this will take is through student greeters at the entrances to schools and in the lunchroom, another is through simply reaching out in the hallways.

“If we do a ‘wear a favorite T-shirt day’ it’s more than just what your favorite sports team is,” said Klinger, noting current spirit days often include sport team pride days.

She also wondered about bringing in violence survivors to speak with smaller groups at the school instead of in a large assembly.

“(That way) it’s not always the same story of some guy that got into sports and then tried drugs or drinking,” said Klinger.

“Then it’s starting a conversation, maybe someone is wearing a T-shirt from a fandom you also have,” added Alexandra Dixon, 17, of Beverly. “It’s that starting of a conversation which then leads to talking about real issues that, while they can be uncomfortable, really need to be talked about.”

Dixon further explained that encouraging conversations about domestic violence, even between high school partners or friends, has been a challenge to have her peers take seriously over the past few years.

“We’ve done surveys to see what people think and feel about domestic violence and sexual assault and even got some pushback from staff, but that discomfort only shows that there’s still a stigma with talking about it,” she said.

But ultimately, Schob said, no one at Fort Frye should feel alone.

“Everything we talk about, it starts with the students,” he concluded. “It all fits together.”

Next week the group will begin recruiting students across all six grades to join in and take challenges to speak with groups and individual students they wouldn’t otherwise interact with.

Then on Sept. 20 a speaker from Sandy Hook Promise, a program which trains students and adults to know the signs of gun violence, will be at Fort Frye for a school-wide assembly and then a period of intensive training with student leaders.

The following week, Sept. 24-28, will be celebrated as Start With Hello week, with themed days and challenges for students to complete.

At a glance:

• Fort Frye High School launched the SAVE program Tuesday with student leaders.

• SAVE, or Students Against Violence Everywhere is a byproduct of the Sandy Hook Promise program challenging school systems to prevent school shootings and other forms of bullying and violence.

• Under the umbrella of the program, established student groups are unified including:

• No More: raising awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence.

• Students Demand Action: encouraging political participation and activism.

• Say Something: encouraging students and adults to report suspicious or red flag behavior.

• Start With Hello: campaign to encourage students to talk to one another and prevent bullying.

What’s next:

• Sandy Hook Promise Assembly, Sept. 20.

• Start With Hello Week, Sept. 24-28.

• Domestic Violence Awareness Month, October.

• EVE, Inc., visit in April during Sexual Assault Awareness month.

Source: Fort Frye High School and Times research.