By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Northborough – At the start of the 2010-2011 school year, Northborough parents of children in kindergarten through eighth grade received a letter from the district's administrators. It included information about An Act Relative to Bullying in Schools, which was passed by the state legislature that spring. Around that time, they also received an announcement introducing the first Northborough Stands Together Against Bullying (NSTAB) 5K Run/Walk, organized in conjunction with Northborough Recreation.
The idea for the event came during meetings conducted throughout that summer with the district's four elementary school principals, and the middle school's principal and assistant principal, explained Michelle Karb, assistant principal of Melican Middle School.
“The six of us spent a lot of time working together to create our bullying intervention plan because of the legislation,” she said. “That's when we decided to have a 5K race to raise awareness. And any money we make will support programming or anything new we want to try with regard to not only bullying, but helping kids be better people in general.”
Plans are underway for the fourth annual NSTAB 5K to be held Saturday, Oct. 5, beginning and ending at Melican School.
Even before the state's law regarding bullying was passed, Karb formed Teachers, Administrators and Students for Kids (TASK), which met weekly in the 2009-2010 school year.
TASK students wrote questions about the proposed bullying legislation and sent them to state Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton. Eldridge visited the school, where he and the students exchanged a dialogue on the subject
“The kids gave him good input and that was very powerful,” Karb said. “Shortly after that, the law went into effect, so it was great for them to feel like they were part of the process.”
Several months after TASK was formed, an assembly was held for students to hear guest speaker John Halligan, the father of a boy who was bullied and committed suicide at age 13. Halligan returned to Melican School last year.
“The first time we had him speak here, the kids really responded well,” Karb said. “Part of me thinks it's because we had a handful of kids who were bullies. They didn's change completely, but I think they heard the message and tried to be better people.”
In 2011, Melican School hosted Rachel's Challenge, a program based on the writings of 17-year-old Rachel Scott, the first student killed at Columbine High School in 1999. Her writings have served as an inspiration to combat bullying by creating a culture of compassion.
Starting last year, Melican School's approach to bullying and building a kindhearted environment has become more customized during Homeroom Connection each Friday. As a guideline they use the book “Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct” by F.M. Forni.
“It's 25 specific rules that he lists about being kind to people,” Karb explained. “That's part of what we do in terms of improving school culture and reducing bullying.”
Proceeds from the NSTAB 5K Run/Walk will help the school invite more guest speakers and programs.
“Frankly, we haven's made a lot of money in the past; we pretty much break even,” Karb said of the fundraiser. “Each of the three years we'se had about 100 participants. It would be great if we had more this year.”
For registration information, visit melican.nsboro.k12.ma.us/pages/Melican and click “NSTAB 5K Walk/Run.” Advance registration is available online and by postal mail. Adult registration is $20. Student registration up to grade 12 is $10. A free T-shirt is offered to the first 200 runners. Race day registration, check-in and T-shirt pick-up begins at 7:30 a.m., and the race begins at 9 a.m.