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Anti-Bullying Demonstration in Claremont Draws Small, Hopeful Crowd

Britta Greene
New Hampshire Public Radio

A handful of Claremont residents demonstrated outside the city’s high school Thursday, holding anti-bullying posters and asking students to sign a pledge stating they won’t bully in the future.

The demonstration comes after a highly publicized incident earlier this fall in which a young boy was allegedly attacked by local teenagers. The boy’s family says he was left to hang by a rope and nearly died.

Among the sign-holders were two parents who said they recently pulled their kids out of city schools because of bullying concerns.  One of those parents, Cassie Burke, said her 16-year-old daughter has been bullied since middle school. “She’s been physically abused by peers,” she said. “She’s even been told to kill herself.”

This year, Burke said, they’ve had enough. Her daughter, home from school while they look at other options for her education, joined her mom at the demonstration.

The alleged attack earlier this fall received headlines nationwide. A police investigation is ongoing, and the Claremont school district is reviewing its anti-discrimination policies and curricula.

Parents of one of the teenagers involved told Newsweek that the incident was a tragic accident. The kids were just playing around, they said.

But many Claremont residents say bullying has long been an issue in the city.

Claremont resident Erica Sweetser organized the event Thursday. She said, with all that's been going on, she wanted to take a stand, to show that the community cares. “I’m sick of hearing everyone say somebody else should do something,” she said.

Burke said she's hoping all the publicity spurs some real change at the local level. “I think that there always has to be a negative that brings a positive,” she said.

She and her daughter were standing together, holding posters, when her daughter spotted one of her bullies coming their way.

“You can go hide,” she said to her daughter. “I’m going right up to him. I want him to sign this.”

The boy and his friends signed the pledge, laughing, and continued down the street.

Asked whether she thinks anything will change, now that they have something in writing, Burke’s daughter said: probably not.

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