Brave, bighearted Bridgewater boys and girls are rising up and rallying against a vicious bullying culture that led to the brutal video-taped pummeling of a special-needs schoolmate allegedly at the hands of three fifth-grade ruffians.
“The bullies seem to be the popular kids, and we want to switch it around so not bullying will be popular,” said 11-year-old Abby Balutis, who helped design special purple bracelets for students who want to combat bullying. “We wanted to make a change and make peace.”
Abby, along with her sixth-grade classmates Cat McLucas and Hannah Brousseau, created the idea of giving out bracelets emblazoned with the word “NOPE” -— for Neighborhood Organization for Peace Empowerment — after three students were caught on tape allegedly beating up a fellow student in a bathroom at Williams Middle School on May 17.
The attack, during which the victim is punched repeatedly while being held, was taped by another student who had reportedly been tormented by the same kids.
The video was given to authorities, and the three alleged assailants were suspended but have not been charged criminally. Bridgewater police Lt. Tom Schlatz said the probe is concluded and a statement will be released tomorrow. He would not say if the boys will face charges.
Plymouth District Attorney Tim Cruz was unaware of any criminal charges being pursued in the case but said children as young as “7 or 8” can be charged “if you can show they know the difference between right and wrong.”
“For the most part, you want those things to be handled at school, unless there are extreme circumstances,” Cruz said. “You have to look at them all on a case-by-case basis.”
Bridgewater school Superintendent Dr. Jacqueline Forbes said the students have been “disciplined appropriately,” and called the case “surprising.”
“Children fight. You’ll see that on the playgrounds,” Forbes said. “But fifth-graders fighting in a bathroom, the age surprised us. . . . Usually at the elementary level, you’ll see hitting, but not to the extent that the video showed. Two of them were holding him.”
National bullying expert and author Barbara Coloroso said the boy’s attackers “need to be held accountable.”
“There needs to be justice for this boy,” Coloroso said. “It’s even more severe when it’s a child with special needs.”
The school held an anti-bullying seminar for parents Monday and assemblies yesterday for students where dozens of kids snapped up the purple bracelets. The idea behind the bracelets is that kids who wear them are “safe communicators” who pledge to report bullying to adults. A NOPE Walk for Peace is scheduled for June 19.
“It represents that we are a part of something and don’t want to continue bullying,” Hannah Brousseau said.
“You’re telling everyone when you wear this bracelet that you’re rejecting aggression . . . and that you’re rejecting bullying,” said Cat McLucas’ mother, Dori, a teacher at the school.
“NOPE was born because everyone saw a certain video and they were impacted by it. When they saw it, they said they wanted to do something about it.”
Vice principal Matt Clark hailed his students’ reaction, saying: “They weren’t necessarily proud of how the school was portrayed. They know it to be a different place, and efforts like this show it to be a different place.”