Rev. Felipe Martinez is the new pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Ind., pictured inside the main sanctuary Tuesday, March 1, 2016. Prior to taking over at First Presbyterian Rev. Martinez was a church administrator in Indianapolis. Mike Wolanin | The Republic Mike Wolanin | The Republic

A rally to advocate love’s power to end oppression is planned after local students were bullied, organizers said.

The Standing on the Side of Love rally will be 5 p.m. today at The Commons, hosted by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbus. Participants are asked to wear yellow and bring signs relating to love — but not political signs.

“This is a peaceful gathering meant to bring people together,” an announcement said.

The rally was organized after inappropriate statements were directed at some Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. students this week.

First Presbyterian Church Pastor Felipe Martinez said he contacted school officials after his teenage children had anti-immigrant slogans — “Build That Wall” — directed at them Tuesday by fellow students in Columbus and in earlier incidents.

“It is a worrying situation,” Martinez said of what his children experienced. “They are all right. We are new to the town of Columbus, and this has been very troubling.”

Larry Perkinson, BCSC employee and student assistance coordinator, said the school district is among schools nationwide that are experiencing issues with students making such inappropriate comments.

The incidents relating to the Martinez family have been addressed on an individual basis, Perkinson said.

Some BCSC principals also have made announcements reminding students of the respect and kindness expected each day, he said.

Additionally, Perkinson said the district had young local children arrive at school in tears Wednesday thinking that potential U.S. policy changes on immigration suggest they would have to move out of the country, Perkinson said.

BCSC principals are asking teachers and staff to monitor what is happening, he said.

“Our job is to educate students and keep a welcoming environment, and we have a responsibility to make schools the safest places they can be,” Perkinson said.

School officials also are in contact with counseling agencies to provide referrals for families who are concerned about their children’s fears and anxiety relating to the election.

Martinez said he and his congregation are seeking to promote values that are inclusive of all people and what happened to his children is counter to that.

“We stand up for the things that are right. We are promoting unity and respect,” the pastor said.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at or (812) 379-5631.