During the course of the AHS assembly, state Rep. Mike Costello, D-Newburyport; Mayor Thatcher Kezer, police Chief Mark Gagnon and Deborah Smith from the Pettengill House all addressed the students. Each presented their own perspective on bullying, the impact it can have and the best ways to confront it.
“The challenge for you is to be kind when others aren’t being kind,” Costello said. “Stick up for the person that no one else is sticking up for.”
Costello and Kezer each emphasized the social aspects of bullying and what an individual can do about it, while Gagnon approached the topic from a law enforcement point of view.
After warming up the crowd by listing the seven things you never say to a police officer in Amesbury, Gagnon got serious, discussing all of the crimes that can be committed as a result of bullying and the consequences that those convictions can carry.
Gagnon then listed all of the equipment he carries on a daily basis, including his firearm, taser, handcuffs, radio and cell phone, and asked the students if they could guess which piece of equipment is responsible for the most destruction in the lives of teens across America, both bullies and those being bullied.
“The cell phone,” Gagnon said. “The choice of cyberbullies, this can get more damage done in your career than any of the other things I just talked about.”
Smith, executive director of the Pettengill House, concluded the assembly by reminding the students to be mindful of who they model their lives after and how they present themselves.
“Modeling what we see from other people, and how we want to conduct our own life, is what we need to do,” Smith said. “Even when you’re raging inside about something, it’s the way you present to someone else. Dignity and respect is the theme.”