By Benjamin Kweskin
Several years ago, in response to real and perceived rising levels of intolerance in public and private schools, the Anti-Defamation League initiated the No Place for Hate program nationally.
Community-driven and frequently student-led, the campaign seeks to strengthen students’ resolve and provides necessary tools and language to combat intolerance while providing school administrators, counselors, principals, teachers and parents the means to handle all aspects of intolerance.
According to the ADL, many schools are ill equipped to deal with certain situations. As such, No Place for Hate-affiliated programs can effect positive results for a safer learning environment and empower students.
Among its programs, the campaign focuses on cyber bullying for parents, general bullying, and different types of prejudice and stereotyping, and it encourages respect and acceptance. The campaign reaches students from kindergarten through high school, so the issues and the ways of handling situations change accordingly.
One teacher told of a student who had moved out of a No Place for Hate school’s district, then moved back. “I asked if she liked living in her new town, and she said it was fun, but she was glad to be back in Georgia. ‘My school didn’t have No Place for Hate, and there was a lot of bullying. I’m so glad to be back here where it’s safe and everyone’s nice.’ ”
Erin Beacham, the education project director for the ADL’s Southeast Region, said No Place for Hate assists communities in general and is not limited to affecting school campuses.
The Southeast Region — Georiga, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina — has 300 schools participating in No Place for Hate, and over half of them have completed all necessary steps to be certified as designated No Place for Hate schools. Among the main steps toward certification, schools must fill out an assessment and coalition form that includes every student’s affirmation of participation from that school. Students must then sign a “resolution of respect” and pledge to uphold standards of tolerance.
The ADL says the rate of bullying has steadily declined in the five years of the program.
When bullying occurs, No Place for Hate schools use the terms “target,” “aggressor,” “bystander” and “ally,” Beacham said. In response to such incidents, counselors and other school liaisons provide additional resources and training. Beacham said students and counselors tell aggressors that “this is a No Place for Hate school and that language or action is unacceptable here.”
Depending on the seriousness of the incident, the bully may face punishment.
The Southeast is among the ADL’s top No Place for Hate regions for participation and growth, Beacham said. All Atlanta-area public schools are affiliated with the campaign, and participation is growing in Alabama and elsewhere.
No Place for Hate uses end-of-year surveys to assess the program, and Beacham said that “99 percent of the responses were positive and wanted to do these programs again and would additionally recommend the campaign to other schools and districts.”
Among changes for the new school year are plans to make online resources more user-friendly, to send out monthly newsletters, and to expand outreach to specific districts in the Southeast.
Word of mouth has been the main way for schools and administrators to learn about the campaign, but the ADL does limited outreach to communities and interested schools. Information is available at atlanta.adl.org/npfh_/npfh.
All resources and materials come through the ADL, and everyone associated with a school is encouraged to participate: School clubs, students, parents and community leaders are all allowed to engage. Parents may be liaisons and allies in their children’s No Place for Hate chapter.
The student-parent-administration-community coalition makes plans to implement at least three activities during the school year. These activities must affect the majority of students, and in most cases the students choose the specific programs.
In a few elementary schools, students have linked arms with one another and with parents and community members in an act of solidarity. In a high school, students put on a poetry slam that encouraged tolerance and respect. Other activities have included assemblies, videos and plays.
The campaign encourages every student to be involved, and all efforts are collaborative, coordinated through administrators, though younger students get direction from counselors with parental assistance.
“We should be aware of the seeds we are planting,” Beacham said. “We never know what another student or person may be dealing or struggling with. We never know the impact that joke you told may have on someone; therefore, it does not need to be said at all. We should be lifting each other up in every way we can.”