PATRICK LAVERYAugust 12, 2019
Next month will mark nine years since Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi took his own life after learning a classmate live-streamed a sexual encounter he had with another man. As another school year begins, the foundation that carries Tyler’s legacy wants to stomp out bullying before it has a chance to begin.
The Tyler Clementi Foundation is appealing to Boys and Girls Clubs and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America chapters in New Jersey, as well as Greek life organizations at Rutgers, Montclair State University, and Seton Hall University, to adopt its #Day1 strategy: a declaration that bullying, harassment, and humiliation will not be tolerated in any group, club, or classroom setting.
Jane Clementi, Tyler’s mother and founder of the Foundation, said downloadable scripts have been customized for each of these types of groups, to be used by teachers, coaches, student leaders, or any other authority figures who may preside over the first day of their group’s meeting.
She said the transparency of having such a tangible document available helps drive the point across.
“It is essential to make that known, not to hide it,” Clementi said. “Make it known on your websites, make it known verbally from the first day that people meet. It’s essential that people know it’s not a magic wand.”
Something the Tyler Clementi Foundation has strived to emphasize is that bullying is a behavior that can be changed if it’s identified early, and that setting those boundaries from the get-go can serve to unite any group despite differences in ability, race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. The fact that Tyler’s suicide came just a month into his first semester of college is a poignant reminder that every moment counts.
“It takes a while to acclimate into a culture of a school,” Jane Clementi said. “So what better time than for a person of authority to declare what that space is, and what that culture expects?”
This is not just for young participants, either — the #Day1 initiative can prove useful to adult employees and staff members even if they are not acting in a capacity of authority.
Individual participants in the #Day1 program will also be asked to sign what is called the Upstander Pledge. The name for this, according to Tyler’s mother, was derived from the failure of any of Tyler’s classmates to speak up when they saw his privacy being invaded. She said had someone reported it, or even provided comfort or consolation to Tyler, his story would have been written differently.
The Tyler Clementi Foundation is aiming for 1 million people to sign the Upstander Pledge, as part of its Million Upstander Movement, by September 2020 — the 10th anniversary of Tyler’s death.
For more, go to tylerclementi.org.
Patrick Lavery is Senior Producer of Morning News and Special Programming for New Jersey 101.5, and is lead reporter and substitute anchor for “New Jersey’s First News.” Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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