Dialogue Night challenges both students and parents to open conversation


Linnea Johhanson

Dialogue Night at Millburn Middle School

Agnes Han, Writer/Pollster

Two peer leaders manning the bake sale at Dialogue Night
Linnea Johansson
Two peer leaders manning the bake sale at Dialogue Night

On Thursday, November 17th, Millburn Middle School held its 22nd annual Dialogue Night.

Dialogue Night is a tradition, one that has been first sponsored by the MMS peer leaders and then has been a guidance-driven event for the past handful of years. It aims to instruct parents and students about the challenges that accompany the transition to middle school. 

This year’s event was planned and hosted by the Guidance Department with help from the CORE 8 and 7 peer leaders.

It was a night where 6th grade students and parents were introduced to middle school life, with a particular focus this year on “risk taking.” The Guidance Department hoped to help “sixth graders get a little bit more exposure to Detective Ed,” according to Guidance Counselor Mr. Dominick Pisa.

Detective Ed de la Fuente, who many students were already familiar with through the DARE program, spoke to 6th graders about questionable actions and how to make decisions about risks. These students also learned about the “Seven Techniques of Saying No” through skits presented by 8th grade peer leaders.

This year’s Dialogue Night focused solely on 6th grade students, a change from past years. It was a way to allow Detective Ed to reinforce the things he taught students in 5th grade, and “address topics like peer pressure, the pressure to smoke or do drugs, etc,” Mr. Pisa said. He emphasized that this change hoped to make new middle schoolers more comfortable and aware, however, those who walked away with the most information that night might have been the parents.

Mr. Cahill and Detective Ed
Mr. Cahill and Detective Ed

The CORE-8 peer leaders began discussion on very sensitive topics like self-harm and sexual activity by asking the parents to guess on the percentage of middle school students who had reported witnessing or engaging in these and other risky activities. The guesses ranged wildly, but the true answer was almost always met with shock.

“These percentages should be 0%,” a mom declared. Others expressed incredulity, asking, “Do you think students would do that in 8th grade? Really?” Upon learning that about 50% of students had shared thought of wanting to harm themselves, one parent commented that it really was an “eye opening” night.  

The survey data was gathered from an 8th grade peer leader anonymous survey conducted by the MMS Guidance Department. As one CORE-8 peer leader responded, “It’s not easy to talk or think about this stuff.” Hopefully after this open and honest evening, parents and students can continue the dialogue at home to make the school and home environment the best that it can be.