BIDDEFORD (NEWS CENTER Maine) – Students and staff at Biddeford Middle School walked out of school Friday morning to unite against bullying.

The effort was started by students who said there needs to be more conversation about an issue that impacts students across the state and the country.

“I’ve been called names personally for my beliefs and my sexuality and my religion,” eight grader Rebecca Hatt said. “I think it’s common in the school.”

NEWS CENTER Maine’s Zach Blanchard sat down with a group of students to talk about what they experience on a daily basis. A number of the students were part of a peer education group that organized the event.

“I want everyone to feel safe enough that they can come to school without the dreadful fear,” student Cam Roberge said.

According to the Maine Department of Education there were more than 1,400 substantiated instances of bullying in the 2017-2018 school year.

The most commonly reported were cyberbullying and physical bullying cases.

Administrators at Biddeford Middle School said they are working to combat the issue and stand behind the students’ efforts wholeheartedly.

“They unite together and support each other,” Assistant Principal Jennifer Vitiello said. “So if a student has been struggling with an issue they will bring it forward more easily after they know it’s not a taboo topic to discuss it’s a topic that we all need to address collectively together.”

Friday’s rain did not stop their mission to raise greater awareness. Hundreds of students poured out of the school to walk.

Students said that bullying happens inside and outside of school, so they hope that by educating and talking about it they can get more people to think about their words and actions.

“Instead of toughening up, we need to figure how to solve this and work together,” Hatt said. “If there’s a lot of people they’re standing up to someone that’s bullying them it’s a lot harder for you to believe someone.”

Students and administrators are hopeful the movement will make change at their school and spread to other schools across the state.

“Doing the walk it shows people that we are here for each other going to support each other no matter what,” student Hannah Sonne-Loranger said.