New Jersey State Legislature Have Passed Resolution to Acknowledge the Term “Upstander”


Media Contact: Aileen McQuillen
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Petition Led by Facing History Students Monica Mahal and Sara Decker

TRENTON, New Jersey (August 6, 2015) – The New Jersey State Legislature have passed on a resolution that urges Merriam-Webster, Inc. and the Oxford University Press to add the word “upstander” to their dictionaries. Coined by diplomat Samantha Power and popularized by Facing History and Ourselves, an “upstander” is a person who has chosen to make a difference in the world by speaking out against injustice and creating positive change.

Former Facing History students Monia Mahal and Sara Decker started the petition that led to Senate Resolution No. 105, sponsored by New Jersey State Senator Thomas H. Kean, Jr. (R). 

“Bullying, enabled by a world of bystanders, is the ultimate cause of injustice and intolerance, causing divisions and allowing hatred to be prevalent within our communities,” they wrote in their proposal to the State. “We yearn to see upstander typed without the red spellcheck line, but more importantly for it to be written on every chalkboard in New Jersey. As an integral part of curriculum, upstander will become a part of every student’s active vocabulary, and will positively influence the decisions and actions within our communities.” 

Mahal and Decker, who both recently completed their sophomore years at New York University and Bucknell University, respectively, were honored at the 21st Annual New York Benefit Dinner in November, 2014. Read about it here.  Read Mahal and Decker’s story of starting the petition as part of their Facing History class at Watchung Hills High School. 


Facing History and Ourselves was founded in 1976 by educators who believed that instilling intellectual vigor and curiosity goes hand-in-hand with teaching facts and figures. From the disturbing lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides to struggles for civil rights from Birmingham to South Africa, we trust students to wrestle with complex moments in human history, and work to help them understand the range of human behavior. These students learn to connect the dots between the ethical choices they’ll face in life and the positive outcomes they can create in their community and the world. For more information, visit



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