NORTH ANDOVER — Bullying is likely to go the way of the fountain pen at Kittredge School – if it has not already done so.
Every four weeks, students, teachers and other staffers stage a RAISE rally. RAISE is an acronym that stands for respect, achievement, inclusion, service and empathy. All of the North Andover public schools are committed to those values.
Friday afternoon’s rally featured several North Andover High School students who have disabilities. They talked about what it’s like to live with those challenges and the bullying and namecalling they have endured.
Nate Richards, who founded the Disability Awareness Program as a Bar Mitzvah community service project when he was a seventh-grader, has familial spastic paraparesis, a condition that impedes his walking.
Richards, a high-energy guy who actually walks faster than most people, told the Kittredge students how other children would call him a cripple and tease him for “walking funny” when he was their age. He got so sick of it that he started an anti-bullying program.
Aislinn McAvoy, like Richards a North Andover High School senior, has a visual challenge. She explained that she was born with cataracts on her eyes.
The cataracts were removed when she was very young, but she still must wear thick eyeglasses. McAvoy said it was painful to have other students make fun of her and call her “four eyes.”
Jarelin Escobar, a Fitchburg High School junior, has spinal bifida and uses a wheelchair.
“It’s like sitting in class all day,” she said when one of the elementary students asked what it’s like to spend so much time in a wheelchair. Escobar said she has not been taunted as blatantly as her friends, Richards and McAvoy, but she’s faced a different sort of nastiness.
“It’s how they look at me,” she said.