Anyone old enough to have attended high school is aware that teens and adolescents can be casually cruel to one another for no reason at all.

With the advent of social media, bullying and harassment have found a new venue in which to thrive, but a group of students at Camden Hills Regional High School have devoted their time to providing information and support to their peers who encounter this behavior within the school's walls.

Feb. 5 marked the beginning of the high school's first-ever No Name-Calling Week, an event founded by Simon and Schuster Publishing and GLSEN: the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.

Highlighting the importance of "kindness in action," each day CHRHS students from groups including the Civil Rights Team, the Gay Straight Transgender Alliance and the International Club are providing resources to their classmates. The students are leading discussions about civil rights, providing information about how to report bullying and offering examples of discrimination that should not be tolerated.

"The goal of [No Name-Calling Week] is to make sure that school is an inclusive place where people feel safe and welcomed; if you don't feel safe and comfortable, you won't be learning," said Civil Rights Adviser Johanna Billington Feb. 5.

Billington leads the school's Civil Rights Team, which is comprised of 10 students. Last fall the group attended a civil rights training course in Augusta, where they were inspired to return to CHRHS with a plan of action: to educate their fellow students about the harmful effects of discrimination and prejudice.

This week, members of the Civil Rights Team, as well as the Gay Straight Transgender Alliance and the International Club, are standing at a table in the entryway of the school, offering information on a variety of civil rights issues to students. On Monday, the theme of the display was the Maine Civil Rights Act.

"I don't know if a lot of students are aware that Maine has a civil rights act, or that every police station has an officer who is trained in civil rights," said Billington. "Rockport Police Department, for example, has a hate and harassment officer. They respond to any instance of graffiti, property damage or harassment, and report it to the state attorney general. It's important to let people know that there are consequences for their actions, and to inform them of their civil rights."

Student Jackson Chadwick, a member of the Civil Rights Team, said he and his peers hope to incorporate ethics from No Name-Calling Week and the Maine Civil Rights Act into the school's strategic plan. Also available at the table in the school's lobby were copies of Camden Hills' policy on reporting harassment.

"Personally, I think that the environment here is a positive one, but I also know that that's not the case for everyone. We're trying to give a voice to these students and let them know that we as a team are willing to advocate for them. We've also talked about creating a mission statement of community values, the way towns like Appleton and Rockland have, that says that this is an inclusive environment," said Chadwick.

Although Chadwick acknowledged some students may not want to be seen picking up copies of materials at the table, he hopes some of the information will be made available for them to peruse online outside of school.

For their part, members of the Gay Straight Transgender Alliance will be highlighting the importance of pronouns in referring to others. The International Club plans to focus its efforts on showcasing the diversity in the student body, based on where people come from globally, as well as how local communities, although physically near to one another, can vary, based on social and economic issues.

Another focus of No Name-Calling Week will be the "importance of words," and the power that words and names can carry and the influence they can have, not only in the school, but in the community. Billington often asks students "How do you respond when you hear people use slurs?" If students don't feel comfortable responding directly to the individual, she asks, "Who can you tell?"

The week culminates in a school-wide assembly Feb. 8, where Brandon Baldwin, the statewide coordinator of the Maine attorney general's civil rights program, will speak to the students and present findings of a survey conducted at Camden Hills, which asked whether or not students feel comfortable or accepted in their surroundings.

Billington recognizes that there has long been a stigma associated with reporting instances of bullying. Students either feel unsure who to report the behavior to, or fear they may be singled out by their aggressor and receive further grief. To address this, she informs students that, "You are allowed to have your own beliefs, but when those impede the safety and comfort of someone, that's not OK."

One way of enacting this message in a positive way is by asking a student who has received a detention for displaying hurtful behavior toward a classmate to spend the period studying a copy of the Maine Civil Rights Act or the school's policy on bullying; not necessarily as a punishment, but as an instructive exercise.

"Each teacher has their own stance on addressing behavior in their classroom, but it's important that students feel comfortable approaching a faculty member to report something. With the Civil Rights Team, we want to empower students to stand up for others, remind their peers to be generally kind, and inform students who may not be aware of their rights," said Billington.

More information on No Name-Calling Week can be found at