Keep It Cool: Prevent Bullying Before It Begins
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Welcome to the Tyler Clementi Foundation

  • Featured Post

    Stand Up and Be a Powerful Force to End the Hate

    Like many in the past week, I’ve been bombarded by images of torch-wielding hate mongers, portraits of physical violence and intimidation, and the tragic loss of 3 precious lives.

    As I learned about the Charlottesville events, I thought about my family’s recent trip to Montpelier and Monticello. My goal this summer was to create a safe space for my pre-teen daughter, Marie, to explore the truth about our nation’s dark past—long discussions about Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and how they managed their enslaved people coupled with our own Virginia family history. I could not have imagined how quickly an already difficult discussion could become exponentially more complicated as the Charlottesville events unfolded.

    As we watched the video from witness’ accounts, we cried and tried very hard to make sense of the senseless. The Charlottesville tragedy pulled the scab off a wound we all carry from our shared and complicated American history.

    As a nation, we must get ahead of this type of hostility in our classrooms, workplaces and houses of worship by standing up to bigotry, vitriol and bullying in all its forms. We must recognize that students of color, students who embrace diverse religious beliefs, students across the gender and sexual identity spectrum, students of all abilities and immigration statuses—we must all stand up for them.

    I shared with Marie that to me, being an #Upstander is to be a powerful, positive force in our work to bring forward justice, equality, fairness and compassion.

    If you haven’t taken the Upstander Pledge, now is the time to take it. If you have taken the pledge, now is the time to share it with others.

    If you are ready to talk to your children’s teachers or school administrators about how #Day1‘s bullying prevention tools are simple, easy-to-sue and effective methods to ensure your child’s classroom is taking steps to prevent hostility, then download the free toolkit now.

    Let your community know that together, we can and WILL end bullying.


  • Featured Post

    Meet Upstander Francesca Murdoch

    Francesca Murdoch with her parents at awards ceremony

    The deadline for youth to enter the 2017 Community Access New York Mental Health Film Festival’s Young Filmmaker’s Competition is August 31! Get more information and enter now.

    What are you most excited about doing in this next school year?
    At the moment, I’m most excited about rehearsals for our school’s fall play, which is Is He Dead by Mark Twain, and for my language classes to start again. I’m studying Latin and French at school, but I’ve also grown up bilingually – English and German.
      
    Where do you go for cinematic inspiration?
    I get a lot of my inspiration from the courses I take, in school and outside of it. A major influence on me was a film camp with the instructor J.P. Morgan at SUNY Purchase, as well as Jonathan Bucari’s film club at the Lighthouse Theater in Armonk, and I also draw a lot from the acting classes I take at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute at the moment.
     
    Still from Francesca Murdoch's short film

    Still from “Intervention”

    Share a little summary about your winning film short “Intervention” from last year and what inspired you to create it. See the trailer and follow the short film’s progress here.
    The film is about the relationship between a teenage girl and a boy her age who struggles with domestic abuse, mental health issues, and social isolation. James, the male main character in “Intervention”, deals with an unbearable situation at home, is an outsider in school and has nobody to turn to until he meets Sarah, but even she doesn’t manage to save him. The idea actually came about as part of the film club I attended at The Lighthouse Theater, where I came up with the story with a group of kids my age. We were asked to write a screenplay to produce into a film, and although “Intervention” was ultimately passed over in favor of a more lighthearted screenplay, the club’s instructor, Jonathan Bucari, encouraged me to make the film after the club ended.
     
    “Intervention” shares the importance of standing up and standing out when you see someone facing challenges to their mental health. How do you feel this is also important when you see bullying?
    It’s important in both cases because people dealing with bullying and mental health issues can start to feel alone and as though they have nowhere to turn to. Knowing that there is someone out there who cares about what you’re going through, being able to talk about it and not having to be ashamed of it can make the situation feel so much more livable and so much more hopeful.

    tcf-social-francesca-murdoch-tileHave you ever experienced or witnessed people being bullied? Can you share a little about that?
    A close friend of mine has struggled pretty badly with bullying in the past, and it has been incredibly hard on him.  It is unbelievable how horrible people can be, and I hate the idea that anyone has to go through what he did.  

    What resources do you think a person should have available to respond to bullying?
    As a teenager myself, I think it is important to have someone you can trust and count on for support in your life, whether it’s someone your age, a parent, a teacher, or a guidance counselor.  If you feel like your struggle is being ignored or if you have to stand up against bullies on your own, it’s easy to feel helpless, overwhelmed, and desperate.  
     
    What do you think are the impacts of a person standing out in a community that is often silent?  What about the effect or challenges it has on the person standing out?
    Even if it is hard, and sometimes also scary, for the person standing out at first, their involvement can make it easier for others to step forward and to also stand up for others.  Having someone stand up for you can make a world of difference if you’re dealing with bullying and mental health issues alike.
     
    Francesca Murdoch with cast of short film at award ceremonyHow do you think your film and this competition help to inspire others to speak out rather than be bystanders around issues of mental health or when they see bullying?
    The Community Access New York Mental Health Film Festival’s Young Filmmaker’s Competition is so incredibly important because it gives kids and teenagers like me a platform and a place to be heard.  I think at this age it’s easy to feel like standing up or trying to share our point of view is impossible or pointless, but the competition, as well as my film, will hopefully show that teenagers have a voice that can be heard after all.
     
    How do you think young people can be more involved in their own schools to encourage discussion of mental health?
    There’s a group at my school called LETS (Let’s End The Stigma), which does outreach and raises awareness.  Involvement in clubs like that, as well as standing by people struggling with mental illness and making sure they know they’re not alone, are incredibly important ways of getting involved at school.  For many, there’s still a stigma attached to admitting that you are struggling with mental health issues, that’s something we need to change. If people feel they can talk about their struggles, they may be more likely to find help.
     
    What projects are you working on now?
    I’ve been focusing on theater and on acting a lot more recently, but I’ve still got a few short film scripts on the go, and I’d love to write a feature film, too.


    Born in New York City, Francesca has always had a strong interest in the arts. Shortly before her 13th birthday, Francesca wrote and directed her short film, “Intervention,” which deals with a teenager suffering from anxiety and depression, and which has screened at a number of festivals across the U.S. Since then, Francesca won awards as the first freshman ever in Rye High School’s Zephyr Writing Competition for her poem and her short story, and she has learned to speak French and Hungarian. She continues to support causes that make the world a better place.


    The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.


  • Featured Post

    Meet Upstander Maureen Kelly

    Tarte Cosmetics Founder and CEO Maureen Kelly

    Join others across the nation for #kissandmakeup Day on August 25! Learn how you can join the movement to end cyber-bullying today!

    tarte started out of your apartment in New York City! That is amazing. What inspired you to create the cosmetics brand?
    I was pursuing a PhD in psychology when I realized that life is just too short to waste time, so I followed my dreams! I’d always wanted to create fun, easy beauty products that made whoever wore them feel beautiful inside & out.
     
    Please share details about the #kissandmakeup campaign and why you think it’s had such a profound response.
    tarte’s huge social media presence actually helped me see how much cyberbullying is out there. Bullying isn’t just on the playground or in classrooms anymore. It’s scary, but people can be bullied anywhere & anytime now thanks to the internet. That’s why we started our #kissandmakeup campaign (don’t be mean behind the screen), which is easy to participate in:

    • After applying a fresh coat of lipstick, kiss your hand and place over your mouth. Post your selfie on Instagram using #kissandmakeup.
    • Please tag a friend in your photo, sending them a compliment and tag @tartecosmetics and @tyler_clementi_foundation
    • tarte will repost some of the selfies, sharing with their IG community of over 6 million fans

    I think it’s really resonated with people because sadly, everyone knows someone that has been bullied, myself included. I’m a mom of two boys and we discuss in our household regularly. I can’t tell you how many heartbreaking stories I’ve heard since we started #kissandmakeup. I hope that by inspiring others to share positive messages on Instagram, people realize it’s cool to be nice, & that it starts a domino effect of kindness.
     
    How do you see showing kindness to others playing a role in the quality of people’s lives? How does it play a role in your own?
    Giving people the keys to feeling confident & encouraging kindness is a principle I have always stood by. Respect others as you hope to be respected! It isn’t hard & goes such a long way toward making the world a better place. Start by smiling more. Studies show that simply by smiling, it makes you & those around you feel happier & more secure. Compassion is contagious!
     
    tcf-social-maureen-kelly-tileWhat inspired you to include the Tyler Clementi Foundation’s bullying prevention and awareness messages as part of the #kissandmakeup campaign? Why is bullying prevention important to you?
    Cyberbullying can happen to anyone, myself included! Not only have I seen it happen to my own employees, but I’m a mom and have sadly seen my kids experience it as well. When I was younger, I came home from school & there was no social media, so I could just unplug & didn’t have to deal with Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook. 

    Today’s landscape is clearly much different. Bullies need to know that there can be life-changing consequences to their behavior & this heartless, unnecessary negativity needs to end now. Not only does Tyler’s devastating story highlight those consequences in a very real way, but makes it clear that serious conversations about bullying – in all communities – are long overdue. The Tyler Clementi Foundation offers incredible resources that make it easier to start those conversations, getting us closer to stopping bullying once and for all.
     
    How do you know when you see bullying?
    Bullying can be as “small” as a snide comment or as big as physical abuse, but no matter the form bullying takes, it’s hurtful. It’s on all of us to intervene when we see it, which can take real courage, but it can also seriously change lives.
     
    Women in the workplace often report experiences where they were bullied or harassed. You have incredible experience running a large company with a diverse team. In addition to the foundation’s #Day1 bullying prevention toolkit, what are other ways companies around the country can ensure that all employees across identities and abilities are treated with dignity and respect?
    The tone of corporate culture is set from the top down. It’s so important for executives & managers to create a collaborative, positive environment. By enforcing anti-bullying policies, shutting down gossip, & standing up for their team members, we can create more respectful work environments.
     
    #Day1 is also used in classrooms across the country to create safe space for all students, asking each student to be #Upstander to bullying and not a bystander. Should schools be taking a pro-active approach to prevent bullying? In addition to the #Day1 toolkit, what resources do you think a school should have available to prevent bullying?
    Schools should absolutely be taking a proactive approach to prevent bullying. It should not just be the responsibilities of the students to stand up against bullies. Teachers should not just shrug off certain behaviors. There should be a focus on building empathy & teamwork among students. Additionally, school faculty can designate themselves as allies against bullying so students know they have an adult they can trust, & who will intervene if students need help.
     
    What do you do to let your child know that it is ok to talk to you when they feel like they might be being bullied?
    I always tell my sons that they can come talk to me about anything & I will listen, without judgment, to what they have to say. My #1 job is being their mom, & I will do anything I can to help them solve a problem – even if all they want is a sounding board.
     
    Do you think bullies can change? How?
    I think many bullies have the ability to change their behavior, but a big part of that change is by shifting the mindset behind bullying in society– it’s never funny or cool to tease or humiliate others. It’s going to take a lot of work, but once bullies recognize this & empathize with those they’ve treated poorly, the world will become a lot kinder.


    Maureen Kelly is the CEO & founder of tarte cosmetics, a cruelty-free line of easy-to-use products packed with healthy ingredients that deliver real results. She’s also a Starbucks lover & beach bum! When she isn’t working on creating the next covetable new tarte launch, she’s at the beach with her husband & two sons. Learn more about Maureen and tarte on Twitter and Facebook.


    The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.


  • Featured Post

    You Can Stop Bullying and Cyberbullying In Its Tracks

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    It’s happened to all of us – our temper rises, our muscles clench, and suddenly, we’re not thinking. In our fury, we’re spitting out or furiously typing words that don’t’ represent our character, or who we are. Often, in the heat of a tense situation, emotions can run high, and that’s when bullying or cyber-bullying occurs. When this happens, how do we know to tone it down? De-escalation can be critical to protecting victims and ensuring that bullies or cyberbullies are safely stopped. How, then, do we de-escalate the situation or #KeepItCool?

    From a proactive perspective, stopping cyberbullying before the damage is done can be rooted in pledging to a movement or a solution that aims to stop the spread of hurtful words. At the Tyler Clementi Foundation, the #Day1 program aims to do this by encouraging individuals to pledge to stop cyberbullying with their fellow peers. From schools to the workplace, with a teacher or a director leading individuals in a verbal acknowledgement in the harm of bullying and cyber bullying, the #Day1 program can help promote tolerance and understanding on “Day 1” in groups of individuals. Furthermore, taking a stand using #Day1 can help spread positivity and the spirit of being an upstander, not a bystander.

    Technology can also be used to help address an issue that it has created. Another effective solution, ReThink, aims to proactively de-escalate cyberbullying online by empowering users to think twice before posting or sending any offensive content to anyone. When an individual attempts to post an offensive message online, such as “You are so ugly,” ReThink gives that individual a chance to reconsider: “Are you sure you want to say that? It could be offensive.” Globally acclaimed research shows that 93% of the time, adolescents using ReThink changed their minds and decided not to post offensive content.

    tcf-social-keep-cool-deescalation-tileIn the midst of bullying or cyberbullying, however, how can one de-escalate the situation? Immediate actions vary based on one’s role in the situations. For victims, it can be critical to immediately distance yourself and ignore the bully. Scientific research shows that offenders often crave attention; by ignoring them, victims remove any incentive for bullies or cyberbullies to hurt others. Block them online, or walk away from the situation. There is never any shame in distancing yourself from a bully or a cyberbully. By walking away, you are elevating yourself above their hurtful words, and showing them you will not lower yourself to their antics. If you are suffering specifically from cyberbullying, save any evidence. Immediately contact a trusted adult or law enforcement with your evidence – do not try to tackle the situation on your own. An important facet of de-escalation is ensuring you do not intensify the bullying or cyberbullying. Though it can be intimidating or frightening, talking to an adult or trusted friend is the best way to de-escalate the situation.

    There is, however, another possible role in a bullying or cyberbullying situation: the role of the upstander. When in a hallway or online, upstanders see the bullying or cyberbullying and directly address the bully or cyberbullying. In order to effectively de-escalate the situation while confronting the offender, upstanders have to be careful. As an upstander, if you see something offensive, do not attack the bully or cyberbully. Instead, state the fact that you believe their actions are negative and hurtful. Come to the root of the problem without insulting the offender: “I’m disappointed that you would use language like that, and I do not approve of your conduct.” Then, walk away. There is no need to engage or heighten the bully or cyberbully in a fight. Even one moment of advocacy can be enough to stop a bully or cyberbully in his or her tracks.

    Bullying and cyberbullying are issues that affect millions of teenagers across the globe, and increasingly, it’s becoming important that young people speak up. As a teenager myself, I know that that we can only tackle this silent pandemic when we make the conscious decision to de-escalate hate on a local and global level. Find your voice – and use it to spread positivity.

    Learn more tips and see more resources for how you can #KeepItCool this summer.


    Trisha Prabhu is Founder and CEO of ReThink, Inc. as well as a Tyler Clementi Foundation board member. Learn more about her here.


    The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.


  • Featured Post

    Keep It Cool By Building Online Civility

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    There’s no denying that we are experiencing a time when there is a crack in civility online. According to a new survey, eighty-four percent of Americans have experienced incivility first-hand and sixty-nine percent believe that social media and the Internet are to blame.

    Seventy-five percent of American’s believe that the change begins with us.

    How can we help de-escalate incivility?

    First, we need to understand the “why”: Much of our online behavior is a reflection of our offline character.

    Make no mistake about it, the first impression most people will have of us is our digital one. From college recruiters reviewing social media feeds to employers examining digital reputations, your virtual behavior can determine your future.

    Most importantly, empathy for others-not only offline–but especially online, is exactly how we can combat incivility and cruelty.

    Patience is a virtue.

    As cliché as it sounds, this phrase is one that we can all stand to remember and refer to these days, especially when it comes to sending a hasty text message or sensitive email. Wait 24-hours.

    Download these social tiles to share in your network and prevent cyberbullying.

    Click to see full image.
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    2017-07-keep-cool-cybertip-content-tile
    2017-07-keep-cool-cybertip-caring-tile

    Waiting to send will give you time to consider the “3 C’s of Social Media” (aka, “How To Keep It Cool Online”):

    • Conduct: Control yourself. Remember, there’s a person on other side of the screen.
    • Content: Limit your sharing. Will what you are about to share embarrass or humiliate someone?
    • Caring: Are you posting with empathy?

    Help, I can’t believe they posted that!

    Most of us have had the experience of reading a post that elicits our darker angels and makes us want to respond to with anger. Who hasn’t had a bad day that makes us want to lash out with our keypad? This is exactly when we need to keep it cool. Consider the 3 C’s above, and implement the art of not commenting or simply clicking out.

    Learn to use your words with wisdom, be constructive, not combative. Commenting is a privilege. It’s an opportunity for you to showcase respect. If you don’t think you can do this– there is nothing wrong with a little digital detox or simply moving on from the post.

    As I often tell others, when in doubt — it’s time to click out.

    Quality over quantity: When “like’s,” forwards and comments perpetrate hate.

    Have you ever considered that when you “like,” forward or even comment on a video, image, message or any social media post — it is the same as endorsing it? We watch people carelessly “liking” photos, messages and other things online without really thinking what they are about. Some are forwarding mean memes or questionable content without realizing the consequences. They are staking their reputation on their online actions.

    Hate perpetrates hate.

    When you keep it cool, you get the opportunity to pause, read that post, listen to that video, and think — is this really something I want to put my stamp of approval on? Remember, your name will be forever associated whatever it is.

    Kids today are especially quick to seek validation through the number of “likes” they get without realizing that these are not quality endorsements. The same people who “like” you today might turn on you in a “snap” or with one post gone ugly.

    As summer heats up, it’s important that we all remember, no matter what our age, when it comes to digital devices, it’s important to keep our cool. You will be surprised at how this can drastically reduce your chances of becoming a perpetrator or victim of digital disaster.

    Learn more tips and see more resources for how you can #KeepItCool this summer.


    tcf-post2174-expert-sue-scheffFounder and President of Parents’ Universal Resource Experts Inc. (P.U.R.E.™), Sue Scheff has been leveraging her personal experiences to help others through her organization since 2001. She is a Family Internet Safety Advocate determined to save other parents from encountering the same challenges and issues she faced when searching for a safe, effective program for her own daughter during her troubled teen years. Sue Scheff established P.U.R.E.™ as an advocacy organization to educate parents about the schooling and program options available to pre-teens and teenagers experiencing behavioral problems. She is the author of the book Shame Nation. You can find her blog here. She is also available on Twitter or Facebook.


    The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.


  • Featured Post

    Download the Annual Report

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    We wish to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to our generous donors, in particular those listed in the new report. We are delighted to have the opportunity to highlight their support and all that it helped us achieve in the past year.

    In 2016, with their support, we:

    • Reached over 14,000 people through our Upstander Speaker Series and addressed diverse crowds ranging from 12 to 5,000 attendees at 35 different schools and corporate campuses
    • Engaged thousands of teens through our involvement with the AT&T Film invitational at the All American High School Film Festival
    • and helped co-launch an innovative Law School Legal Clinic to provide free, legal assistance to victims of online abuse

    DOWNLOAD REPORT

    Thanks to our generous donors, the Tyler Clementi Foundation’s free bullying-prevention tools are reaching more and more students and employees than ever before. To learn more, we invite you to view the report at your convenience, and hope you will continue to follow our work!


  • Featured Post

    The Tyler Clementi Foundation has officially kicked off a national search for our next Executive Director.

    Please find the link to the job announcement here.

    Please consider forwarding this announcement to friends, family, and relevant forums and list-serves so we can reach as many people as possible about this opportunity.


  • Featured Post

    Meet Charlotte Simpson

    Students of Ridgewood High School Hang Pride Flag
    What year of school are you in? What are you most excited about for the summer?
    I just finished my junior year of Ridgewood High School. I like to keep busy over the summer, and right now I am really excited to be in the pit orchestra for our summer high school musical, The Pajama Game.

    What got you to join the Ridgewood High School Gay-Straight Alliance? What do you feel like the impact of that program has been for you?
    I joined the Gay-Straight Alliance my freshman year. At the time I had friends who were a part of the LGBTQ+ community and I thought joining the club would be a good way for me to provide them with support. From there, I became passionate about activism. At the time, gay marriage was not yet nationally legal, and this was the main injustice that made me want to work hard to create a safe place for LGBTQ+ students in the school as well as do something to make the school environment a better place for them.

    I became a co-leader of the GSA my sophomore year and worked hard to give the club more of an activist atmosphere and make it a safer place for the LGBT youth in the school. The club has had a tremendous impact on me these past two years. Not only has it taught me about leadership and responsibility, but it has also taught me to work hard for what I am passionate about. I think the club has really thrived this past year, raising money for the New Jersey Pride Center, selling pride flags to the community, having over 270 participants for day of silence, and, finally, being the first school in Bergen county to raise the pride flag in celebration of Pride Month.

    Making Change is Difficult, But It Is Far From ImpossibleWhat prompted you to bring the raising of the pride flag to the attention of the school? What was that process like? How did your friends and other GSA members support you?
    Beginning in May, the GSA was running a pride flag sale at the school in support of Pride Month. Another teacher of mine asked me if we were planning on putting the flag up outside of the school, and I thought it was an amazing idea. I brought the idea to the club’s teacher advisor, Ms. Soucy, and together we brought it to the principal, Dr. Gorman. The idea was met with little resistance. At first there were concerns of backlash from the community and worry that the flag would be seen as a political statement. After discussing further, Dr. Gorman, Ms. Soucy and I decided the flag was not political, but instead a necessary declaration of support and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ youth in the school and community. The process included countless emails and planning, but with a lot of hours and work, the flag went up about 2 weeks, which I think is amazing!

    Since the flag has gone up, the responses of the town and my classmates have been unbelievable. I worked with the hope that the flag would make just one person feel more supported by the school, and now seeing how many people the flag has touched inside and outside of RHS, is absolutely incredible. I really could not have done this alone. Everything we do as a club is tremendously supported by all the members, and getting the flag up was no exception. Many members stepped up to raise awareness and express the importance of the flag raising. Without Ms Soucy, Dr Gorman, and the entire club putting in so much effort, this would not have been possible. To them, I am very grateful.

    What does LGBTQ+ Pride mean to you?
    Pride is a word that carries a lot of weight in my life. To me, pride is how someone sees and holds themselves. For so long, member’s of the LGBTQ+ community have been deprived of this crucial human right to be proud of who they are. As the world becomes more and more accepting, people of all sexual and gender identities can now, some for the first time, have pride in themselves. This new age of love and self-acceptance deserves celebration, and demands attention. Even allies to the LGBTQ+ community should be proud to live in a place where people are not belittled for their sexual or gender identification. I believe everyone, gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, and so on, should be ecstatic to be living in this changing time where love can just be love.

    How do you define bullying?
    Bullying is targeting someone to make them feel worthless, ostracized, and alone. Whether the victim is targeted because of race, sexual orientation, gender identification, or for just being in the wrong place at the wrong time is beside the point. The intention of a bully is to gain power by stripping it away from someone else, leaving them defenseless. By harassing someone physically, emotionally, socially, or online, a bully is destroying the self-worth of another human being in the cruelest way possible.

    Pride Flag Hangs at Ridgewood High SchoolYou go to the school that Tyler went to many years ago. How does that impact you?
    I was just beginning 5th grade at the time of Tyler’s death. At the time, though I couldn’t fully comprehend what had happened, I could see a definite shift in my home, in the school, and in the town. When my mom sat me and my sister down to talk about Tyler, I couldn’t understood more than that a boy got bullied for being himself, and he shouldn’t have. Tyler’s death stayed with me until I could fully comprehend what had happened, and I realized that the town had been faced with accepting the pain that LGBTQ+ youth go through. The shift in the town wasn’t just a somber one, but one that strengthened the community. Parents, students, and everyone that was touched by Tyler’s death knew changes had to be made to prevent more heartbreak in the town. Walking through the halls of Ridgewood High School, the thought of Tyler sticks with me, like I think it does with most of my fellow classmates. When deciding how to treat people and how to help people, or even if I should hold open the door for the kid running down the hall with their hands full, I think of the impact my actions can have on the people around me. Tyler’s death taught me, along with the rest of the town, to consider others even if I don’t know them. Because anyone can be going through the same struggles as Tyler, even if no one knows it.

    If you could share with him some of your thoughts with Tyler, what would you share?
    When the flag was raised, many LGBTQ+ alumni from Ridgewood High School told me how grateful they were that the flag is up and about how much the school and the community has changed since their teenage years. I wish I could just show Tyler that things really do get better. It could take months, it could take years. But change is constant, and right now things are changing for the better. If Tyler could see the flag in front of the school and the community-wide support for everything the GSA has done, I hope he would be proud of how far our community has come. Knowing what Tyler went through, I want nothing more than to do my best to prevent anyone else from going through the same thing.

    How often do you feel like LGBTQ+ people you know (and this may or may not include yourself) experience bullying? Have you ever experienced bullying? Have you ever witnessed it? If so, please share as much as you feel comfortable with and what the impacts on your life have been?
    I have not directly experienced or seen bullying at Ridgewood High School, but have witnessed more of a general misunderstanding or subtle lack of acceptance for LGBTQ+ students or LGBTQ+ pride. One of the things I would like to do is spread education of sexuality and gender, and show how simple it is to accept others even if you don’t understand them.

    Students of Ridgewood High School Hang Pride FlagDo you feel like you have a place to go or people to talk to if you have been bullied? Do you know other students that might not have a support system around them?
    I believe that Ridgewood High School has an exceptional support system for students seeking help from the school, whether it is about bullying or any other issue. We have two incredible crisis counselors that many students utilize who are readily available and easily accessible. I make sure to make it clear to our club members how easy it is to get help from the school. I believe that the GSA provides a safe place and support system for students who may feel ostracized. I really do think that the students at RHS have extraordinary resources to seek help, and I would love to ensure that students at all schools could be provided with the same level of support, from their administration and peers.

    What’s the thing you want an LGBTQ+ person or an ally to think when they see the pride flag raised over the school?
    My goal in getting the pride flag raised was for even just one person to know that someone out there is fighting for them. I hope that when passing the flag, LGBTQ+ students who may feel unaccepted or on the fringe can be reminded that there is a safe place for them in the GSA and that the administration truly does support the community, which I think is inspiring. I hope seeing such a prominent display of support for the LGBT community can also help to show students, LGBT or not, that it is okay to identify as whatever they want, and that it is necessary to accept and support each other in order to grow as a community. Aside from the GSA’s intentions, I really hope that the flag inspires other students to stand up and fight for what they are passionate about. Making change is difficult, but it is also far from impossible.


    Charlotte Simpson is a passionate and dedicated student, friend, and leader. Besides being in the GSA, spends her time as a Piccolo and the Flute section leader in her school’s marching band and as the historian for the Band Council. On the weekends she enjoys working out, reading and spending time with her friends and family. Follow her on Instagram.

    Photos courtesy of Ridgewood High School student Lia Collado


    The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.


  • Featured Post

    The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Honors Jane and Joseph Clementi with its Making a Difference Award

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    The Anti-Defamation League—the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism—presents its 2017 Making A Difference Award to Jane and Joe Clementi, co-founders of the Tyler Clementi Foundation.

    Jason Sirois, Director of ADL’s No Place For Hate says, “ADL sees the Tyler Clementi Foundation as an example of two people who saw a need and decided to do something about it. We hope this recognition ignites the innovation of young leaders and educators across the country to tackle issues of bias and bullying in ways that will have sustainable impact.”

    tcf-social-adl-tile2“With the increase of bias motivated incidents, it is easy for individuals to feel as if there is nothing they can do to stop these incidents from happening,” says Sirois. “[As part of #Day1], asking leaders in schools, workplaces and faith communities to declare that cruelty, bullying, harassment and humiliation will not be tolerated is the first step to creating a culture that inspires others to move from being bystanders to upstanders,” says ADL’s New York Region’s Education Director Nicola Straker.


  • Featured Post

    Bullying is Preventable; Prevention Starts With Standing Up Together.

    As a public health practitioner, I have been working with state and local governments on a range of issues involving adolescent mental and reproductive health, such as depression, suicide ideation, sexual education, LGBT-specific health issues, and methods to increase self-efficacy and self-worth. I firmly believe that we cannot address each of these issues independently of one another, and in fact, we know that a comprehensive focus on these issues helps improve overall adolescent health and well-being.

    Bullying, whether towards children, adolescents, or adults, adversely affects every one of these issues, not just one issue alone. The detrimental effects of bullying has tremendous costs to society, which is shameful given that bullying is completely preventable.

    As with many public health concerns, a small amount of financial support for bullying prevention can reduce a considerably higher amount of medical and societal costs, which anyone would agree is a sound investment. For example, #Day1 is a free, easy-to-use bullying prevention program used in classrooms and workplaces nationwide to reduce bullying before it starts.

    From a personal standpoint, I am eager to address these issues as a minority LGBT individual who has personally encountered this discrimination and believes such bigotry cannot and should not occur now and into the future. Although I believe the LGBT community has made considerable strides in recent years in combating such prejudices, I firmly think that we, LGBT or not, need to continue working even harder now to reduce discrimination for our community as well as others that face prejudice and hostility.

    This is particularly true given the recent religious liberty executive order, which has anti-LGBT undertones, and its potential affect on increasing anxiety and stress among LGBT individuals and families. We have already seen such policies come forth from state governments and courthouses in Indiana to Kentucky to North Carolina and the detrimental effects it has had on our highly vulnerable community. Let your community know that faith doesn’t discriminate.

    Beyond the LGBT community, it distresses me that the current political and social climate has overtly tolerated, and in many cases, accepted religion-based bullying. We have seen a double-digit increase in anti-Semitic incidents within the last year and a continuous deluge of hate crimes against Muslims. We also have had either no or reluctant acknowledgement by the current federal administration on hate crimes against visible minorities, as evidenced against my own as an Indian-American with respect to the shootings that occurred in Kansas City in February of this year.

    This is an opportune time more now than ever to help reduce bigotry and discrimination against the LGBT community and other minority communities and I am looking forward to working with The Tyler Clementi Foundation, its board, and Upstanders like you to help make this change happen.

    Join with me now by taking the Upstander Pledge.

    Vikrum Vishnubhakta is a member of the board for the Tyler Clementi Foundation. Learn more about him here.


    The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.


New Video

Jane Clementi speaks at the GCN Conference 2017 General Session