Jane Clementi, Mother of Bullying Victim Tyler Clementi, and Steven Guy, Executive Director of Tyler Clementi Foundation, Give Keynote Address
On Tuesday, April 9, students from seven independent secondary schools gathered at the Hyde School Woodstock, CT campus to discuss one of the most contested issues affecting young adults today: bullying.
Participating schools included the Hyde School in Bath, ME, the Hyde Charter School in Bronx, NY, Marianapolis Preparatory School, Woodstock Academy, Vermont Academy, and Hotchkiss School.
“As teenagers, we have all had our own personal experiences with bullying regardless of the role we played,” stated Aine Zaniewski ’13 during the opening words for the conference. “Bullying is a severe problem plaguing our society that needs to be addressed. We, as teenagers, feel that we need to take matters into our own hands because as students, we are the true experts on this topic. It is students who will ultimately be able to send a message to our peers to end this problem.”
The morning began with a presentation by keynote speakers Jane Clementi and Steven Guy from the Tyler Clementi Foundation about the importance of dealing with the issue of bullying.
“Tyler made a decision that he could never change,” shared Jane Clementi, “but we decided that change is what was needed. We needed to change the negative actions and words that put Tyler in a place where he felt he had no other choice.”
Clementi is the mother of Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old Rutgers University student who committed suicide following a bullying incident. As a result, the Tyler Clementi Foundation (TCF) aims to educate both youths and adults on the impact and consequences of bullying in vulnerable populations.
“We can’t legislate changing people’s hearts, but we can educate to that change,” said Clementi.
The presentation also spoke to the Foundation’s Upstander Pledge, which is a pledge people can take on the TCF’s website to build safe and inclusive environments and to stand up for others when they are being put down.
Steven Guy, the executive director of TCF since July 2012, spoke to the importance of small actions and community awareness in order to change how society deals with difference.
“We are here to motivate action amongst each other, within yourself and within your communities,” shared Guy initially. “I want to make sure that your work is sustainable. I want to make sure that you know that you have support. And I want to make sure that you’re looking out for yourself and each other because you are of incredible value.”
Following the keynote speaker, conference attendees attended a variety of workshops prepared by the participating schools.
Workshop offerings included:
- “Pushing Back on Peer Pressure” by Marianapolis Preparatory School
- “It Gets Better” by Woodstock Academy
- “The Bystander Effect” by Hyde-Bath
- “Bullying Encounters” by Hyde-Bronx
- “Pseudo Bullying” by Vermont Academy
- “Psychology of Bullying” and “Stereotypes” by Hyde-Woodstock
- An Abridged Performance of “Dog Sees God” by Hotchkiss School
The day concluded with a panel discussion that answered questions and spoke to the lessons and action steps coming out of the conference. The panel consisted of 11 students from all the participating schools and was moderated by Hyde-Woodstock senior Connor McLaughlin.
“I have a lot of respect for people who shared what they’ve gone through and it is great to see that they are at a point where they are able to do so,” shared a student from the Hotchkiss School.
Many students on the panel spoke to the importance of reaching out to their peers and intervening in situations when they arise, both in social media and in person.
“I feel that an action step moving forward is to host a school meeting about the issue of bullying and increase community awareness,” said Hyde-Bath senior Erika Corley.
Students in the Hyde Leadership Society, with the help of faculty member Kevin Folan, took the lead at Hyde’s Woodstock campus with the help of Marianapolis students to put this conference together.
“I couldn’t be prouder of both our students and the other participants today,” shared Folan. “All the discussions and presentations were well-prepared and it was inspiring to see the energy and creativity that students brought to the workshops and panel discussion.”
Take the Tyler Clementi Upstander Pledge: