Bayside gets lesson on rights

MS 158 students join with Meghan Fialkoff (r.), of Youth for Human Rights, to review a series of educational workshops they had performed at their school. Photo courtesy Tameek Williams
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The local chapter of one educational youth nonprofit said it has taken its message to Bayside with hopes of improving the borough’s mediocre human rights record, based on the grading of the Queens City Council delegation.

Under the guidance of Director Meghan Fialkoff, the Youth for Human Rights New York chapter hosted six human rights events for students at Marie Curie Middle School 158 in Bayside and Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School 74 in Oakland Gardens to inspire borough students with tolerance and peace. The group reached more than 1,800 city kids with lessons on human rights and respect.

“Building positive relationships among children and adults alike, preventing bullying and nourishing respect for each other no matter race, religion, cultural background, nationality and more, begins with teaching youth that they do have inherent human rights,” Fialkoff said. “We stress that we all have the responsibility to uphold these rights and prevent violations from occurring around us.”

Earlier this month, the city Department of Education hosted its annual Respect for All Week, which was what sparked the Youth for Human Rights presentations in Bayside, Fialkoff said. The group tied together human rights, respect and anti-bullying lessons through various documentary films and activities.

“After the presentation, many of our social studies teachers are using the materials as well as the school [which] continues to foster Respect for All not only during the week but throughout the year,” Nappi said. “The Youth for Human Rights presentation has started a nice dialogue among our students and staff.”

Nappi said MS 158 took the lessons a step further by putting human rights declarations that the students signed on display at the entrance of the school.

Last year, the Urban Justice Center released a human rights report, marking the Queens Council delegation with a lackluster C-plus. The Manhattan-based nonprofit concluded that of the 14 Council members in the borough, only two deserved grades of B-plus or better.

The report, compiled through the center’s Human Rights Project, compiled its list by grading Council members on legislative trends, votes and sponsorship of various bills.

The report named Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) with the only A-minus grade and at the top of the borough’s list, and graded Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) with the worst grade of C-minus.

By instilling lessons on human rights to the youth in New York, Fialkoff said she felt Youth for Human Rights could do its part in reversing that trend.

“Creating a friendly, warm environment, community and city begins with the student practicing human rights and respect for others in the classroom, then continuing to practice at home, practicing as they go into high school at which point they will be prepared for the challenges of the world and the diversity of our city,” Fialkoff said. “This was the message of our Respect for All Week events and we hope to carry these out through our future events in New York City.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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