Nationally Renowned Anti Bullying Advocate Sirdeaner Walker Addresses Southeastern Students
Freshmen and sophomores at Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School listened sympathetically and respectfully to a different kind of assembly on January 18, 2013 – their first assembly in the new gymnasium. The presentation, The Bullying Crisis: Not a Moment to Lose, was delivered by guest speaker, Mrs. Sirdeaner Walker, whose beautiful son took his own life after being bullied repeatedly at the New Leadership Charter (Middle) School in Springfield, MA. Mrs. Walker, in partnership with GLSEN (The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) has shared The Carl Walker Story at schools across the nation, as well as on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Ellen, ABC World News, Anderson Cooper 360 and Extreme Makeover Home Edition. As a political activist, she attended the first anti-bullying rally at the White House with President and First Lady Obama, and provided testimony before the House Subcommittees in support of the Safe Schools Improvement Act.
Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover was a football player, Boy Scout and was active in his church. Had he been alive today, he would 15 years old, the same age as many of the students in attendance. He liked to play video games with his little brother and play basketball. He was full of life and energy and he had plans for his future. He had a beautiful smile and was a nice kid. Carl was bullied for being gay, although he did not identify as either gay or straight – he was an 11 year old child. Despite Mrs. Walker’s repeated complaints and pleadings with the school about the bullying, which Carl had endured since September of his 6th grade year, the torment continued. She was on her way to meet with school authorities again on the morning of April 6, 2009, when she found Carl had taken his own life.
Prior to the assembly, guidance counselors visited all freshmen and sophomores at the classroom level to prepare them to get the most out of the assembly, showing a 2-minute Extreme Makeover Home Edition clip about the Walker family (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9NGLZMB9Jw). The primary goal of the program is to get families into a new house, but in the case of Carl Walker’s family, it was to put an end to bullying. Tracy Hutson, Co-Host Designer of the show had a message for students: “It’s a cool person in school that stands up for the kid that’s being picked on. That’s what would make you cool. Not being a bully, but standing up for people that need your help”
Throughout her presentation, Mrs. Walker encouraged students and school personnel to maintain the guiding principles of respect, empathy and kindness to one another. She pleaded, “Help me to stop it. You should not have to experience this in your home away from home. School is for learning, not teasing and torment, threats or belittling. We can learn to appreciate and respect each other.” She encouraged students to kick off next weeks “No Name Calling Week” by taking the pledge against bullying at www.standtogether.tv. She also challenged students to tell someone they trust if they are being bullied, help students who are being bullied, be an ally and hero to someone who’s different, and ask friends and family to call their congressmen to sponsor the Safe Schools Improvement Act. She stressed that “when students do not feel safe, they cannot learn. It’s a safety issue.”
The presentation concluded by Mrs. Walker telling students that they can make the difference by what they say either in person or over the internet. “I beg you, when you want to say that unkind thing, think of me and my son Carl, and maybe it will cause you to pause and say something nice. Be kind to each other and kind to your teachers.”
Following the assembly, teachers held a short debriefing period upon their return to class. Counselors were available to assist in the discussions as well as being available to any students who might appear upset. The anti-bullying awareness will continue with the observance and activities of “No Name Calling Week” at the school.
Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School is a public 9-12 vocational high school located in South Easton, Massachusetts, serving approximately 1,255 students from the city of Brockton and the towns of East Bridgewater, Easton, Foxborough, Mansfield, Norton, Sharon, Stoughton, and West Bridgewater.