EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 8, 2013

Editorial: Some cheers, some jeers for recent newsmakers

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — CHEERS to North Andover students, who are teaching each other about living with disabilities.

Every four weeks, students, teachers and other staffers at North Andover’s Kittredge School hold a RAISE rally. “RAISE” stands for “respect, achievement, inclusion, service and empathy.” A recent RAISE rally focused on several North Andover High School students who have disabilities, our reporter Paul Tennant wrote. They talked about what it’s like to live with those challenges and the bullying and namecalling they have endured.

Among the high school students was senior Nate Richards, who founded the Disability Awareness Program when he was a seventh-grader. Richards has familial spastic paraparesis, a condition that affects his walking.

Richards 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 the anti-bullying program.

Richards said the bullying came to a halt after he and other students with disabilities spoke to 60 of their seventh-grade peers in the North Andover Middle School gym. A few of the reformed bullies actually apologized to him, he said.

“They don’t bully me,” Richards said. “I don’t hold a grudge against them.”

Other high school students told the younger children how bullying had affected their lives.

This message, coming from fellow students rather than adults, can be effective at helping children see those with disabilities as peers with feelings and concerns similar to their own. That kind of understanding brings empathy and should do much to discourage bullying and cruel mockery.

Well done to those involved with this effort.

CHEERS for a growing population of bald eagles in the Merrimack Valley.

For years, wildlife enthusiasts have been counting bald eagles in January to keep track of how many of the majestic birds are living in a given area. But this year, the statewide eagle count is being postponed to March to give a more relevant assessment of where they are and what they are doing.

It seems eagles like it here as much as we do and are taking up permanent residence, particularly along to lower Merrimack River from Haverhill to Newburyport. Counting in March will allow researchers to determine how many eagles are nesting here, as opposed to using the river as a winter residence.

Tom French, assistant director of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, said on the lower Merrimack River alone there are eight nesting adults, and perhaps four juveniles. That’s a remarkable figure, he said, considering that in 1979, when the state first started its eagle count, there were only eight in the entire state, and none of them was nesting.

Bald eagles seemed headed toward extinction a half century ago. Today, they are no longer considered to be endangered and their numbers grow each year. The 2011 count found a record 107 eagles across Massachusetts. The 2012 count was canceled due to bad weather.

Thanks to all those who have worked to bring eagles back from the brink of extinction, we can all enjoy the sight of these beautiful birds in the skies above the Merrimack Valley and Southern New Hampshire.