CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- United States Attorney Anne Tompkins is very impressed with the level of acceptance and diversity from the students at Northwest School of the Arts.
Tompkins visited the school a few weeks ago with Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, to talk about anti-bullying policies. However, she found out that the students at Northwest were already steps ahead of her. So, Tompkins decided to continue the dialogue Friday morning.
"What I'm challenging these student to do is be the Johnny Appleseeds of [the anti-bullying] issue and to take this beautiful message out to other schools in the school system, and I hope to be part of that," said Tompkins.
About 50 students, teachers and parents met an hour before class began to speak openly with Tompkins. Many of the students are part of the school's thriving Gay-Straight-Alliance Club, and some of those members talked frankly about their experiences with bullying.
"There are problems with bullying everywhere," said 7th grader Grace Connelly. "I really wanted to know how everybody can help nationwide and worldwide; so that people understand however you're different, it's OK, and we don't need to be the same."
Tompkins says the Department of Justice has been closely following how bullying affects students throughout North Carolina and the country, especially after high-profile teen suicides have been linked to bullying.
Tompkins told students she believes today's bullies are people that the Department of Justice will end up prosecuting in the future. She hopes Northwest School of the Art's tolerant message is one that will spread throughout the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District, and to other districts throughout the country.
"What we found at Northwest School of the Arts is that [students] were way ahead of us in the anti-bullying message," explained Tompkins.