Eagle Hill School hosts bullying assembly

Eagle Hill student Sam Brody shows a poster he made to help combat bullying.

Eagle Hill student Sam Brody shows a poster he made to help combat bullying.

At a recent Eagle Hill school assembly, David Long’s story of his son’s suicide gripped an audience of more than 300 teachers, parents and Upper School students present.

The school said that Mr. Long, whose son, Tyler, committed suicide in 2009 as a result of continued bullying is “shaking up communities across the country” with his organization, Everything Starts with 1. Tyler Long’s story has also been included in the documentary Bully which has received critical acclaim for its “no-nonsense approach to a pervasive global problem in schools.”

The morning was launched with a 45-minute exercise where students worked in groups to design a video, song, skit, or artwork that defined their ideas of bullying. The parents were then invited into the gym to see their presentations.

Brett, one of the students who worked on a short video portraying bullying in progress, said later,“We really communicated and saw how it affects people. We pass over bullying as if it’s no big deal, but it is.”

For some of the students at Eagle Hill, all of whom face the challenges of a learning disability every day, bullying was a part of the experience at their previous school. School officials said, “Attending Eagle Hill with its zero-tolerance approach to this issue is life-affirming for them.”

Mr. Long told his story of how his son struggled to get through his days at school, interspersed with clips from, Bully. Tyler was a boy who “experienced many of the things that in a movie or television show would be considered humorous, but in real life quickly become emotionally draining and hurtful — books knocked out of his hands, head pushed into a locker or toilet, or being tripped as he walked by.”

Students were urged to become support channels for each other, a safe place for friends who feel alone. Mr. Long firmly entreated them to remember that “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” As for parents, he asked them to take note of any behavioral changes in their children, and to realize that parents and adults often get it wrong by misunderstanding the intent of the bully or the severity of the emotional backlash in their children. As a final message, he addressed the students graduating this year, saying: “As you graduate, think about the legacy you will have moving forward. It started today. It was defined here, in this institution, in this school.”

Mr. Long was effusive in his praise of the students and the school. “Tyler and my family would have loved to be at EHS. You have a very special place here. The atmosphere of respect and tolerance is something to be replicated everywhere.”

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