I am writing to tell you about an exciting program that will be launched for the first time this year at Lee Elementary. No Name-Calling Week was inspired by a young adult novel entitled The Misfits by popular author James Howe. The book tells the story of a group of friends trying to survive the seventh grade in the face of all too frequent taunts based on their weight, height, intelligence, and gender. Motivated by the inequities they see around them, the “Gang of Five” (as they are known) creates a new political party during student council elections and runs on a platform aimed at wiping out name-calling of all kinds. They win the support of the school’s principal for their cause and their idea for a “No Name Day” at school.
Motivated by this simple yet powerful idea, a coalition of over forty education, youth advocacy, and mental health organizations have partnered to organized an actual No Name-Calling Week in schools across the nation annually. The project seeks to focus national attention on the problem of name-calling in schools, and to provide students and educators with the tools and inspiration to launch an ongoing dialogue about ways to eliminate name-calling in their communities.
At Lee Elementary, we recognize the importance of building empathy and teaching respect to our students, and note the impact words can have on their well-being. A recent survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that students aged 9 to 13 consider name-calling the worst kind of verbal bullying, and that threatening words or taunting based on race or appearance have as much negative impact as does physical bullying. According to the study, students who regularly experience verbal and non-verbal forms of bullying report hurt feelings, low self-esteem, depression, living in fear and torment, poor academic achievement, physical abuse, and suicide. No Name-Calling Week is one way in which we are responding to these upsetting statistics.
No Name-Calling Week will take place during the week of January 21-25. During my guidance time students will work on activities that will help them realize the impact of verbal bullying, and be taught strategies for coping with and putting an end to name-calling. We hope that No Name-Calling Week will help all students consider the weight of the words they use, and make school a safer, healthier place for all of our children.