NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – It was a sea of blue in the bleachers at Albert Leonard Middle School on Monday morning, as popular television personality Mario Lopez visited New Rochelle students with STOMP Out Bullying to spread the message of anti-bullying on “Blue Shirt Day.”
The former “Saved by the Bell” star filmed a segment for “Extra,” the TV show he hosts daily, where he spoke with local middle school students, each of which was supplied with a blue shirt urging an end to both bullying and cyber bullying.
With Albert Leonard Principal John Barnes serving as emcee – and occasional disciplinarian when the students got chatty – Lopez answered questions from sixth, seventh and eighth grade representatives and discussed some of his own experiences with bullying.
“When it comes to bullying, it’s as simple as: if you see something, say something. Everybody needs to be held accountable,” he told the crowd of nearly 1,500 students. “You have to be brave. This isn’t tattle-taling, it’s doing the right thing for yourself and your peers.”
For nearly a decade, on the first Monday in October, STOMP Out Bullying asks kids and adults alike to participate in Blue Shirt Day, where they raise awareness of and look to prevent bullying. This year, Armour representatives presented STOMP Out Bullying founder Ross Ellis with a check for $75,000 to help the organization’s cause.
“We started this nine year ago to keep kids safe and make sure that bullying prevention is heard around the world, “she said. “Those who witness bullying: say something. Tell them to stop. Be upstanding, not bystanding.”
Over the weekend, district officials and staff have been hard at work transforming the middle school, erecting anti-bullying signs, recreating “Anti-Bullying Lane and “Upstanding Boulevard” with student artwork and preparing the gymnasium to roll out the red carpet. As a gift to Lopez, students literally and physically vowed to stomp out bullying with a performance from the step team.
New Rochelle Superintendent Brian Osborne said that Lopez and Stomp Out Bullying gave he and the district a unique opportunity to raise awareness during National Anti Bullying Month.
“In this building, we value building social and emotional strength in kids, so we want them to have self confidence and skills to prevent themselves,” he said. “I’m always pleased and impressed to see a celebrity fighting for a cause and partnering with us to raise the next generation of healthy kids.”
Lopez noted that in the digitized world that we live in, cyber bullying has become more and more prevalent. He added that bullies are simply trying to mask their own insecurities. “Even as adults, (bullying) doesn’t end, it doesn’t discriminate,” he said. “These ‘keyboard gangsters’ are so weak as an individual and in such a place of insecurity that they use that platform to go out of their way to victimize others.”
The episode of “Extra” featuring Albert Leonard Middle School students will air at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 6 on WNBC.
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