"No Guff" Week
NO GUFF DAY: A HISTORY
By Greg Gilbert, Retired FHS Adjustment Counselor
Where did NO GUFF come from?
As an adjustment counselor at FHS, I have done hundreds of mediations between students. Many of these mediations involve conflicts between students who are talking negatively about each other. During the 2000-2001 school year, I began working with students to organize a positive atmosphere at FHS. We talked about an appropriate slogan that could get this message across. A student from that group, John Domingos, remembered a phrase his grandfather used: “Don’t give me any guff.” It sounded right.
That year, the first NO GUFF DAY was born as a proactive, fun way to prevent conflict and improve the school climate. Former FHS teacher Doug Riebesehl enlisted several students to produce hundreds of T-shirts to celebrate NO GUFF. It was a diverse group, some of whom had never been involved in traditional high school activities. Amazingly, this venture was not budgeted and Mr. Riebesehl used his own resources to fund the shirts. The back of the shirts featured the slogan “Don’t Go Behind the Back.” Shortly after this effort we lost Doug to a tragic motorcycle accident. NO GUFF Day has been held in remembrance of Mr. Riebesehl who empowered students to get involved in creating a positive atmosphere.
Another major influence in creating this environment in 2001 was Joe Mello, another FHS Adjustment Counselor. “Mello” was able to start a similar involvement at New Bedford High School a few years later. He passed away in the summer of 2007. Like Mr. Riebesehl, Mello made a huge impact on students in his 10 years at FHS.
Many people have worked at keeping NO GUFF DAY alive over the years including Sharon Thompson of the guidance office, Joanne Palmer, class advisor and Cheryl Atherton, former school resource officer. NO GUFF DAY has remained a great tradition at FHS thanks to the great kids who have embraced this critical part of education. We have had one common theme throughout: wear the shirt (or lanyard, pin, or wristband) and pledge to not talk (or text) negatively about anyone for the day. If you can do this for one day, with support from your peers, it may have a more lasting impact. NO GUFF Day has raised awareness, changed the environment, and made people feel better about themselves.
“WEAR THE SHIRT, DON’T TALK DIRT”
Every year since 2002, students vote for their classmates who exemplify NO GUFF in their everyday lives. The three top vote-getters from each class are selected, and their names are put on a plaque in the main lobby of FHS. It is a great honor. In 2003, we included the top two faculty members—as voted by their peers. All award recipients receive an individual award at an assembly in front of the entire school. Letters were sent home to parents of the award recipients noting this important accomplishment. It is worth noting that in NO GUFF history, eight students have been selected all four years they were at FHS: Grace Peterson-17, Sarah Hynes-12, Katy Burton-11, Kerri Sadoff-08, James Womboldt-07, Brendan Sawyer-06, Theresa Griffin-05, and Tom Griffin-05. Starting in 2010, all students who received at least one vote received certificates--300 students! Nick Reibesehl, Doug’s oldest son, has been prominent as a student leader in the resurgence of NO GUFF Day and he received an award from his junior classmates in 2010.
As volunteer advisor for Best Buddies, I have been proud to see our special needs students more involved with promoting NO GUFF Day. These students are not only invested in this concept, they often exemplify the NO GUFF lifestyle.
While there are national initiatives designed to celebrate a positive environment and student climate, NO GUFF Day was born and sustained by Falmouth students. For the 10th No Guff Day–2010—we reached out to the whole town to follow our lead. NO GUFF WEEK was celebrated at all of Falmouth’s schools, as well as many churches, town departments, businesses, community groups, and families. This expansion would not have been possible without Tracey Crago who created a partnership between the Falmouth Public Schools and Falmouth VIPS as well as Falmouth Young Professionals and the Falmouth Board of Selectmen. NO GUFF Zones were established throughout the community. NO GUFF Day came at the end of NO GUFF Week. FHS distributed T-shirts to all students and staff, while Lawrence and Morse Pond students and faculty received wrist bands with their pledge. A tremendous video production by Brian Switzer and Ann Goulart featured every student at Morse Pond School, along with well-known community leaders and high school students sharing the NO GUFF message. FHS students also took their message to Lawrence and Morse Pond in what was an excellent and influential teaching opportunity. The Morse pond video and FHS student influence continues to this day.
The ripple effects of NO GUFF are profound. Several students reported feeling safer and empowered to support positive interaction. Parents reported that sibling friction was less evident. The Boston affiliate of Fox News ran a piece on NO GUFF featuring Nick Riebesehl. NO GUFF Day was the focus of a sermon from the pulpit of a local church. At FHS graduation, NO GUFF Day was highlighted in the class president’s speech as their finest moment. Morse Pond did a class musical production and dedicated their 2009-10 yearbook to NO GUFF. Elementary students wore homemade NO GUFF tie-dyed t-shirts. Upper Cape Technical School was able to do a NO GUFF Award presentation for their seniors, with only two weeks to prepare! Both FHS varsity boys and girls varsity lacrosse teams used NO GUFF as a team anthem. Most recently, an A+ feature on Channel 5 described Falmouth High School as a positive place that would never tolerate bullying or harassment because of the No Guff initiative for the last 10 years.
NO GUFF t-shirts from 2001-present on can be seen throughout town on any given day. The shirts serve as a catalyst for discussion and remind us that what we say matters. In May, 2010, Massachusetts passed an anti-bullying law and school districts throughout the Commonwealth will have anti-bullying plans in place by December. Beginning in 2011, the fourth Wednesday of January has been designated “No Name-Calling Day” in all Massachusetts public schools.
Falmouth should be proud that we have found a way to keep the NO GUFF celebration alive! The power of the t-shirt is as evident today as it was when Doug Riebesehl made the first 600 shirts in 2001. This year, we are making an effort to get all Falmouth students involved, and as many community members as possible. My goal is to keep the history of the original NO GUFF spirit alive and well so that it will inspire current and future FHS students.
In 2014, the No Guff Community Spirit Award was created to honor a Falmouth resident who lives and practices a No Guff Lifestyle. Recipients Sam Pearsall Mueller (2014), Craig D'Amario (2015), Jennifer Connors (2016), and Annie Hart Cool (2017) were chosen through a simple process open to Falmouth.
We are all indebted to the generousity of the Cavossa Companies and Cape Cod Aggregates for their contributions in helping spread the No Guff spirit through t-shirts that are worn throughout the entire community.