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Thursday, October 28

Many of them outfitted in Giants sweatshirts and jerseys, students in Gary Cruz’s first-period class answer the day’s journal question: What can you do when you see fighting or someone being bullied?

Two finish the assignment early. One freshman boy takes his pencil and sticks it inside his afro-style hair.

“Where did it go?” he jokes.

“I can’t see it,” responds his senior classmate, a boy with long, slicked-back hair in a black leather jacket.

Cruz interrupts.

“There was an incident yesterday. We’ll talk about it. I feel like we need to, as a peer resources class.”

One girl fans her eyes as they fill with tears.

The students move from the long birch tables to a circle in the middle of the room.

“It would be crazy if we ignored this major, major incident,” says Cruz.

A special education student was assaulted yesterday. He was grabbed by the neck, thrown to the ground and kicked. This wasn’t the first time he had been bullied.

Many students stood by and watched. But a few girls — including the one who teared up — reacted immediately.

“The guys watching are so stupid. They were just staring, and the student was being dragged. I was so nervous, so scared,” says the girl, slouched in her chair with her arms crossed.

“I don’t want people to think, ‘Oh that just happens at our school. We don’t get involved,’” says Cruz.

“How does this happen? How does it get to that point?” he asks.

“Maybe people don’t want to be seen as snitches,” says a tall girl wearing large hoop earrings.

“Maybe no one stood up for him because no one really knows him,” says a boy.

“Maybe students fear that if they tell, they will be the next targets,” says a girl with a lip ring.

“This is pretty heavy, but what were your ideas about stopping bullying?” asks Cruz.

Some answers: Call the security guard. Try to convince them not to fight. Tell an adult.

“Is this school a place where people stand up for one another?” Cruz asks.

“It should be. It’s a small school. Everyone should be like a family,” says the girl who witnessed yesterday’s assault.

“How do we make it more like a family?”

“That’s hard,” says a girl. “Be respectful of people and things.”

Cruz agrees. Being respectful is contagious.

“What would you like to do next, after seeing this happen?” he asks.

Host an assembly on school bullying for the whole school, suggest a few students.

“Let’s hold on to the idea of an assembly,” says Cruz. “We need to make sure we keep coming back to that topic.”

For the 40 minutes or so that is left in class, students move on to other topics, including teacher observation training. Some stare at the white walls lined with university pennants from Princeton and UC Berkeley, among others.

But before quiet time, the class briefly revisits yesterday’s assault.

“He’s a freshman. If you see him, can you look out for him? Keep an eye out for him,” says the girl who witnessed the incident.