By Robin Rieger
MT. LAUREL, NJ (CBS) — Self portraits by first grade students at Hillside Elementary School in Mount Laurel demonstrate how unique each child is, while their dreams show what they have in common: the desire for friendship and acceptance.
In class, they have been learning how to be a good friend.
“Treat others the way you want to be treated,” says Cayden Storicks.
Some first grade students were also told the story of the “torn heart” on Monday by guidance counselor Brenda Betley, as part of a program on bullying. In the story, a new student’s heart is torn every time she is mistreated by classmates.
“It made me feel sad; I don’t really like people doing that,” says Carter Mansfield.
With tape and kindness, students put her heart back together with what they have learned.
It’s all part of the second annual “Week of Respect” program in NJ, designed to prevent harassment, intimidation and bullying as part of the state’s anti-bullying law, considered one of the toughest in the nation.
The law was adopted after Rutgers student Tyler Clementi’s 2010 suicide. Clementi’s roommate, Dahrun Ravi, was convicted of using a webcam to spy on Clementi’s intimate encounter with another man.
“The most important part is for us to be proactive with our students,” explains Principal Mary Fitzgerald, who also says that includes reaching out to parents.
“I don’t like to say ‘the week of respect.’ I think it should be something that’s ongoing all year,” adds Betley, who tailors her anti-bullying lessons to the grade she’s addressing.
“I ask some people, ‘Do you want to play with me?’” says Jayden Smith.
“Be polite to other people. Do not push or shove,” says Bridget Toomey.
“You don’t ignore people, always listen to what they say,” says Storicks.
They’re timeless messages that even the youngest students take to heart.