High school staff send message with a single word

Staff members of Shelton High School filled in the blank last Friday, letting students know what they stood for and what they wouldn’t tolerate, using a single word.

Nearly ever adult in the school building wore a white T-shirt that said, “I won’t stand for” with a blank space after it that teachers filled with words like apathy, racism, bullying, and disrespect.

The T-shirt project was organized by the Diversity Committee, a group of staff members formed last year.

“It was formed to celebrate diversity and counteract bullying,” committee member Rosemary Pagliaro said. “We want to create an environment where diversity is valued.”

The “I won’t stand for” idea came from a campaign started by the USA network, Pagliaro said.

The Valley Community Foundation helped the effort, giving the school a grant to buy the T-shirts.

Student response was positive, Pagliaro said, and students were excited to see what word their teachers chose.

“It would be hard to find an adult in this building who isn’t wearing a shirt today,” Headmaster Beth Smith said Friday.

Smith told the student body that the day was about promoting understanding and acceptance.

“We believe life is richer and we are stronger as a school community when we see beyond the stereotypes and appreciate each other for the characters we are,” Smith said.

Superintendent Freeman Burr visited the school Friday, in support of the project.

“As administrators and staff, we’re dealing with bullying as an external mandate,” Burr said. “This is great to the extent that you can get students to think about these issues — at the end of the day they make their own decisions — but the staff sets a good example and teachers really are role models.”

Smith said some of the students asked if they could also get the T-shirts and do a student Diversity Day. Because of the positive response, the Diversity Committee may look into planning a schoolwide “I won’t stand for” day.

“Part of our mission statement is that we celebrate diversity,” Pagliaro said of the school. “We want to make it real and more than a piece of paper hanging in every classroom — we want to live it.”