The statistics are shocking: Nationwide, 1 in 3 kids is bullied and 1 in 5 admits to being a bully. But, the Village of Irvington is taking aggressive action to fight those numbers. When the new State law against bullying, the Dignity for All Students Act, goes into effect July 1, the Irvington School District will be one of the only New York schools already near compliance with the law which mandates that all NYS teachers and staff receive proper training to address harassment and discrimination issues. It also requires the monitoring and reporting of any such incidents.
Through the proactive efforts of the Irvington Diversity Foundation, Inc. (IDF) a non-profit organization started in March 2011, and the Character Education Committee led by Scott Palermo, the District already has sensitivity training programs in place for administrators and employees and has begun community outreach through a series of town hall meetings. IDF President Michael Zeldes says, “We are proud to be a community that cares by bringing together parents, administrators, faculty and concerned students who are not content with the status quo.”
Now in its latest move to teach beyond the classroom, the IDF presents Come Together…Irvington Talent Rocks on Saturday, April 21 at 7pm, a first-of-its-kind entertainment benefit to further educate the community about the new law. It will feature performances and testimonials from students, teachers, residents and administrators who have experienced harassment. Also featured are a talented lineup of dancers, singers and musicians from the Broadway Training Center, Sleepy Hollow Performing Arts Center, Main Street School Chorus, IMS Drumlines, and the IHS Drama Club. “Each act will use their own unique form of expression to tie into the theme of diversity and acceptance,” explains one of the event organizers and performers, Bonnie Rofe. The benefit will help fund continuing programs such as teacher/staff training for conflict resolution and diversity awareness programs for students and the community.
Reid Mitchell, an IHS senior who made an acclaimed documentary about students’ experiences with harassment in conjunction with the World of Difference club last year, will present a new video at the April benefit. Mitchell says, “I hope I’ve paved the way for future students to feel comfortable talking about and tackling these issues [and also hope I’ve] helped make our city a more comfortable place to co-exist.” He interviewed students like Main Street School 5th grader Morgan Schnetzer and 4th grader Jack Grados who are happy steps have already been taken to educate students. “We have assemblies once a month where different classes work together to make up skits about character education,” says Schentzer. Grados adds, “It’s cool when kids teach each other because they speak your own language.” The assemblies generally deal with 5 questions: What Is Fair? How is Action-Inaction? What Is Ownership? What Defines Who We Are? What Makes A Community?
The district has implemented similar character education programs in each school. Lessons include teaching kindergarteners the difference between telling and tattling, talking to middle schoolers about the dangers of online social networks, and teaching high school students that there is no such thing as an innocent bystander when it comes to bullying. Efforts of the IDF, Irvington Education Foundation and the PTSA will continue and grow as the law goes into effect in July and becomes more defined. Zeldes says, “Our mission is to instill a new culture within our community as it relates to acceptance of others and the understanding of the real and present dangers that bullying causes, not just in the classroom, but on Main Street, in our places of worship, and even in our workplaces.”
Just as superstars like Lady Gaga brought attention to the nationwide bullying problem last month by unveiling her Born This Way Foundation, Irvington leads the way for schools in New York to empower kids and nurture a more congenial environment in and out of schools. Community leaders believe that neighbors from surrounding towns and villages will also benefit from this event which is open to all.
Come Together…Irvington Talent Rocks will be held Saturday April 21st at 7pm at the IHS Campus Theater, 40 North Broadway. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for students and can be purchased at IrvingtonRocks.com, the Good Life Gourmet at 108 Main Street, and at the door.
For more information go to the IDF Facebook page at