FRENCHTOWN – The eighth-grade class at Frenchtown Junior High isn't going to let negativity win.
Susannah Murphy, a science teacher at the school, said the walls outside her classroom, which are covered in sticky notes bearing kind messages, filled a week ago after a group of students approached her about harassing messages that were being posted on the social networking site Ask.fm.
The messages included racial and sexual slurs against some Frenchtown students.
“One girl was told she had been using the death of a family member as an excuse,” the teacher said.
When they went to teachers to talk about the harassing messages, eighth-grader Isabella Garrard said students were asked why they didn’t just stop visiting the site.
“You shouldn’t let negative people ruin things,” Garrard said. “I’m really proud to be a part of this class.”
Dante Piedalue, one of the eighth-graders who helped start the message wall, said the online comments were of a very personal nature.
“It seems like it is absolutely a student here,” he said.
So the students, almost all eighth-graders, wanted to find a way to promote positive messages about the school and each other. Out of the conversation came the idea for a dedicated space in the school to display messages.
Murphy calls the wall Frenchtown Positive.
“By the end of the next day, we were three deep around the bulletin board,” she said.
Piedalue said the most recent count found 1,000 notes posted on the wall.
“We did get one note for the wall though that said, ‘Sorry for being mean on Ask.fm’ from someone anonymous,” he said.
Some of the notes are made out to a specific student, others are just a positive sentiment about Frenchtown Junior High. Murphy said some of the eighth-graders took yearbooks home to make sure every student had at least one positive message on the wall.
“Some of the students have asked, ‘How long are you going to keep this up?’ I said, ‘As long as you keep bringing in notes,’ ” Murphy said.
Garrard said she has received messages on Ask.fm since the wall went up from someone threatening to tear the message wall down.
“Whoever it is does not like this at all,” she said. “It’s just one account making the messages, then it gets banned and the person makes a new one.”
The plan at the end of the school year is to take down the notes and separate out the ones written to a specific student to put in an envelope that will be given to that person when they become a senior.
Eighth-grader Kara Klietz said she hopes the sticky note messages will eventually lead to students feeling more comfortable sharing positive sentiments in person.
“It can grow when people start saying these things to their faces,” she said.