Bridgehampton Students Paint Anti-Bullying Mural In School Cafe

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What would a world without bullying look like? According to students at the Bridgehampton School, it would be a colorful world filled with respect, kindness and love.

In conjunction with artist Joyce Raimondo, middle and high school students have created a brightly colored mural depicting such a world. Each student who walks into the school’s café will be reminded of behaviors that contribute to a happier environment.

The mural incorporates values, such as learning, organization, team work, and responsibility through figures carrying out different actions.

“Most commercial anti-bullying posters instruct children how to behave and aren’t something that children can relate to,” Ms. Raimondo said. “They focus on what children are not supposed to do. They focus on the negative behavior.”

Ms. Raimondo, who is the founding director of Imagine That! Art Education of Amagansett, said it is important to reinforce positive behavior instead. The middle school students who put together the mural had to work together in teams of six to illustrate what words like “caring,” and “responsibility” look like—in this case, it was pushing a wheelchair and picking up trash. Students were given precut letters and figures to pose and arrange on posters and Ms. Raimondo took their creations and put together a professional mural based on their ideas.

She said the act of simply working together to create their posters was a lesson in cooperation, empathy and respect.

“Students figure it out themselves—they might vote, they might have one leader who decides, they might divide up the board into four different sections or they might change their mind in the process,” she said. “They’re figuring out what it means to resolve conflicts by working together by experiencing it.”

She prepared students for the task by introducing them to different styles of famous artists from Pablo Picasso to Jackson Pollock, and shared the story behind her own piece of work, “Self-portrait at Seventeen,” which was created in part in response to bullying she went through as a teenager.

The project, which is near completion, is part of Bridgehampton School’s efforts to meet the requirements of the Dignity for All Students Act, which was implemented last summer by Governor Andrew Cuomo to ensure that students attending public schools are provided with a learning environment that is free of discrimination. The mural is also meant to reinforce all that is taught through the school’s our Positive Behavioral Intervention Support program, according to School Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre, and was funded by Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

She said the mural was put in the café so that students have a daily reminder of what they stand for at the school and spelled out the school’s theme, “Bridgehampton ROCKS—Responsibility, Organization, Cooperation, Kindness and Safety.”

Ms. Raimondo said it is important for students to not only practice these characteristics but for adults to set the bar high and understand that it’s all about respect.

“If you expect students to work together and to be brilliant in their ideas and expect them to have positive behavior and give them opportunities, they’re going to fill up to that level,” she said. “We’re not aiming for a world where no one argues and everyone wants the same things. We want our world to have differences. We’re not tolerating the differences, we’re appreciating and learning from each other and celebrating our differences.”

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