NEWARK, N.J. – He’s only had the job for a couple of weeks, but that’s all it took for a determined principal to realize a bold change was needed to fight bullying at West Side High School in Newark, New Jersey.
“They were choosing to stay home rather than coming to school to be bullied or ridiculed,” Principal Akbar Cook told The Star-Ledger. “We didn’t know until we started making calls.”
Cook told the paper that students would mock others who showed up with stains on their collar or dirty pants, taking cellphone pictures to continue the harassment on social media.
He told WABC that one student, who was homeless at the time, didn’t want anyone to check her belongings at the school entrance because she was ashamed of her clothes.
Cook managed to secure $20,000 in funding from the PSEG Foundation, according to the Star-Ledger, and with that money he converted the football locker room into a laundry room, complete with five washing machines and five dryers.
“I refuse to let a kid come to school smelling or dirty and I’m sitting on a shirt that says ‘West Side on it,” Cook told the paper.
News of the laundry room spread quickly on social media, and the school started receiving community donations of detergent and dryer sheets to offset any cost to the students, according to WABC.
The laundry room will be open for students Monday, Wednesday and Friday beginning Aug. 27.