The following is a press release from the Arlington Human Rights Commission.
The Arlington Human Rights Commission bestowed its Everyday Hero Award on Ottoson Middle School’s Building Respect Task Force and Friends of the Gay/Straight Alliance at a ceremony on Sunday, May 20, at the Whittemore-Robbins House. Eighty people attended the event to celebrate and honor the groups’ efforts, aimed at fostering a respectful, inclusive climate at Ottoson.
Everyday Hero Award
The Everyday Hero Award recognizes community members who demonstrate an active commitment to fostering understanding of and respect for our differences. This year’s award was accepted by Ottoson Principal Tim Ruggere and other key members of the Building Respect Task Force and Friends of the Gay/Straight Alliance.
Eighth grade student Katie Ray addressed the audience, which included 20 of her fellow OMS students and Superintendent Kathleen Bodie. Ray, a peer leader and member of the Gay/Straight Alliance, spoke about the importance of learning about the harmful effects of prejudice and intolerance at a young age, “before it’s too late.”
Building Respect Task Force
The Building Respect Task Force began in April 2010, in the wake of a hate incident that brought together school leaders, community members, parents, and students to develop a positive response and prevent further acts of prejudice and bullying at OMS.
Today, the group’s mission is to build a respectful and welcoming school, and ensure fair and just treatment at OMS. To achieve this, the Task Force supports efforts of the Peer Leadership Program, comprised of seventh and eighth grade students committed to combating prejudice and creating an inclusive school community. The Task Force has initiated, implemented and raised funds for several initiatives, including: A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE Institute’s peer training program, peer-to-peer workshops in sixth grade clusters, student-led presentation to the School Committee and Superintendent, field trips to New England ADL’s Youth Congress and Stand Up 2011 anti-bullying conferences, school-wide assemblies featuring speaker Dr. Michael Fowlin, the creation of a website, http://omsbuildingrespect.tumblr.com/ and RESPECT wrist bands.
The Friends of the Gay/Straight Alliance
The Friends of the Gay/Straight Alliance is a group of parents, students and community members interested in contributing to the health and well-being of the Ottoson Middle School Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA), now in its second year. The GSA is a student-run club whose members strive to create a school community in which all students and their families feel safe and included, whether they identify as gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender or just don’t know yet. In particular, GSA members undertake projects to address bullying, harassment, prejudice, and negative language that relates to sexual orientation and gender identity.
The GSA has worked on activities such as The Day of Silence, during which students take a vow to stay silent for an entire day to bring attention to anti-Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender name-calling, bullying and harassment in their schools, in addition to other important education and social justice projects.
Arlington Human Rights Commission
The Arlington Human Rights Commission was created by Town Meeting in 1993 to advance issues related to the fair and equal treatment of individuals. The mission of the AHRC is to work individually and collaboratively with other groups in our community to celebrate the ever-changing tapestry of our town, and to emphasize, through educational outreach, the danger of intolerance at every level. The Commission usually meets on the third Wednesday of the month. For more information, please call 781-316-3250.