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H.T. Wiley Intermediate students to rally against bullying

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Each pupil at H.T. Wiley Intermediate School is one in a million — literally.

The 579 children will put on their matching shirts today for the Million T-Shirt March Against Bullying, the world’s biggest antibullying rally.

“We’re doing what we can to stop bullying from happening anywhere,” said school guidance counselor Lynne M. Hebert. “It’s an awareness thing. It’s not a huge problem here. I wanted to do it because Watertown adopted the Olweus program.”

Olweus is an international bullying prevention program that many upstate districts adopted when the Dignity for All Students Act went into effect last summer.

Mrs. Hebert learned about the rally after a friend near New York City told her about the Million T-Shirt March last year.

“I didn’t know anyone locally who is doing it,” she said. “I just thought it will grow and grow, and other schools in the area could do it next year.”

The rally, which will be outside in the 75-degree temperature predicted for today, begins at 1:45 p.m. with guest speaker Joseph Gilchrist, youth pastor at New Life Christian Church, who will tell students about the dangers of bullying and how they can be nicer to one another.

“Chris (Hopper) and Joe have been around our school before,” Mrs. Hebert said. “We just got someone local who has a vibrant personality.”

The students will take a photo after the speech — Mrs. Hebert said in the shape of a “W” — and march from the school to Washington Street. In addition to the students, she said, school staff, district administrators and Board of Education members were invited to march along.

“Most of the students are looking forward to it,” she said Tuesday. “One student even wore her T-shirt today.”

The school had to buy the matching shirts — listed at $7 each for orders of more than 10 — from the Million T-Shirt March organization website in order to participate.

“What they want to do is to try and get the biggest rally where everyone will wear their T-shirt and break a world record,” Mrs. Hebert said.

The students raised money through book and bake sales. Mrs. Hebert also credited the school’s Parent-Teacher Organization and local businesses for donating money.

“Our generous PTO helped donate to this cause along with Watertown Savings Bank and FX Caprara,” she said. “It was important to get the community involved because bullying doesn’t just happen at school; it can happen anywhere.”

More information on the Million T-Shirt March Against Bullying can be found at http://themilliontshirtmarch.org.

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