Students at St. Mary Gate of Heaven Catholic Academy, Ozone Park, know their rights, and are ensuring them for themselves and their posterity. They have created a Bill of Rights based on the foundations of respect and social justice as part of a school-wide anti-bullying campaign.
The idea was that the student body wants to be more conscientious of how its members treat one another, their school and how they wish to be treated. Kindergarten through eighth-grade classes spoke with their parents first about these ideas and then had class discussions with their teachers. Class discussions turned into listed ideas that were presented to the principal. Once all the grades presented their ideas, they were organized and the Bill of Rights was created.
The document aims to “establish and uphold a community of acceptance and understanding,” and includes three articles outlining respect for others, school and self.
On hand to witness the signing of this important document were school Principal Philip Heide; Father Gerald Fitzsimmons, S.M.M., St. Mary Gate of Heaven pastor; Frank Gulluscio, chairman of the academy board; representatives from the diocesan Superintendent of Schools’ Office and State Sen. Joseph Addabbo.
In addition to the Bill of Rights, students are establishing a three-tiered student government with executive, legislative and judicial branches that will uphold their Bill of Rights, explore its evolving role in the school community and amend it if necessary.