Experience Inspires Anti-Bullying Campaign

“Bullying stops here” buttons on backpacks | Photos provided

Nora Nissenbaum’s anxiety worsened, as several times a day in the hallways of her middle school, she walked past the boy who allegedly threatened to kill her.

In April, inspired by her experience, the sixth-grader started an anti-bullying campaign called Commit To Kind. The campaign seeks to combat bullying from a student-driven perspective, which is what makes it different from other anti-bullying campaigns, according to Sandy Nissenbaum, Nora’s mother. The goal, Sandy Nissenbaum said, is to encourage kids to change their own environment by choosing to be kind.

The campaign began with Nora passing around buttons at her school that read, “Bullying stops here.” She ended up leaving her school, Tredyffrin/Easttown Middle School, in early May and, not long after that, a group of her friends organized a “Be Kind” day and spread the word around to wear red shirts to school that day.

“It inspired this idea that kids can really take a hold of this idea of spreading kindness and start with themselves if they want to make an impact on bullying and look to improve the environment in schools,” Sandy Nissenbaum said.

On May 27, the family started a GoFundMe for the campaign, which quickly surpassed its $850 goal. As of publication, it had raised $2,150.

Nora Nissenbaum

Originally, the money was intended to help print posters that students would ask local businesses to put in their windows as a show of support. But now that they’ve raised much more than intended, they have used some of that money to launch the campaign’s website, commit2kind.org. They also plan on using the money for potential future programming, such as a social media campaign called the Commit To Kind Relay, which will challenge individuals to commit to an act of kindness, share it on social media, then challenge their friends to do the same.

“The way you treat others can make you feel good, in addition to how it makes them feel,” Sandy Nissenbaum said. “It can be a relay. It can spread that way.”

The campaign was inspired by Nora’s experience with bullying and threats.

“Not that I needed closure, but I didn’t feel like anything was going my way or that there was anything I was doing to help,” Nora said. “I felt the need to start up a campaign and the Commit To Kind thing because I want to go out and not have anybody else have to go through what I went through.”

The story begins in December when Nora and a boy she shared several classes with started texting each other. In February, Nora heard that he had been bullying some of her friends at a dance, so she decided to end their relationship.

At first, he seemed OK with it, Nora said. But the next day, the messages began. He sent her anti-Semitic texts telling her to go back to the concentration camps and memes about the Holocaust.

Nora deleted the messages, blocked him and tried to ignore him.

But Nora’s parents, Sandy and Scott, eventually learned about what was going on through the parents of another student.

Nora’s parents reached out to the boy’s parents. They also reached out to the Tredyffrin Township Police Department and the school, which Sandy Nissenbaum said investigated the incident.

The investigation resulted in the boy’s suspension.

Commit To Kind T-shirts

The first day of the suspension, Scott Nissenbaum received a call from a concerned parent. There was a rumor going around that the boy was going to come to school with a gun and that he had 33 targets, one of whom was Nora.

Sandy Nissenbaum immediately picked up Nora and her younger brother from school. They headed to the police station, where they spent much of that day. She said police quickly secured the situation. 

Chris Connolly of the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District Communications Office responded to requests for comment or confirmation with information about how the school district responds to potential threats, as well as  statements from Superintendent of Schools Richard Gusick and District Solicitor Michael Kristofco that said the district was open to feedback on its policies and that certain student records are deemed confidential by law, respectively.

The Chester County District Attorney’s Office said it could not comment on the case, but Chester County District Attorney Thomas P. Hogan told the Associated Press he had no reason to believe the parents would give an inaccurate account.

The boy was back at school after a five-day suspension, Sandy Nissenbaum said. The school changed the boy’s schedule so the two were no longer in the same classes, but Nora still passed him in the hallway several times a day. That caused her a lot of stress and anxiety.

The stress was eventually too much, and Nora left school at the beginning of May. She finished out the year at home with a tutor.

“Being home has been really rough on her,” Sandy Nissenbaum said, “because she’s a very social kid, and tutoring is just like an hour-and-a-half each time when they come. She’s a kid who’s not just a social kid, she’s a student. She loves school. She loves working together with other students for class projects. She loves the discussion in reading, the literary discussions. She’s very engaged, and it’s been a loss for her to not be in school.”

Sandy said they hope to send Nora back to school for seventh grade.

In the meantime, Nora said she wants to use her campaign to help other kids who have been bullied.

“I can put out this, where people can reach out and tell us their story, so they don’t have to hide behind their fear anymore,” Nora said. “They can speak out about what happened to them and that things need to change, quickly and soon. This is not tolerated.”

szighelboim@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0729


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