Last week, Edutopia writer Suzie Boss spoke to Not In Our Town executive producer Patrice O'Neill and Not In Our School coordinator Becki Cohn-Vargas. In her article, "Students Standing Up to Bullying and Hate," Boss writes:
It takes courage to stand up to a bully or challenge hate speech. On K-12 and college campuses across the country, students and educators are coming together as "upstanders" to change their communities for the better. Their stories of everyday heroism are highlighted in a compelling new documentary and accompanying educational campaign called Not In Our Town: Class Actions. ... Educators inspired by these stories will find a range of resources online to launch similar efforts in their own communities.
Boss also featured our Not In Our School initiative:
What makes the initiative unique is that each school or district decides how it will address the issue of intolerance. "It's not like you sign up and go through a series of prescribed steps," Cohn-Vargas adds. Local campaigns maximize creativity along with compassion, with schools producing plays, organizing pledges, and even drumming up pro-tolerance flash mobs to drown out hate groups.During her career in education, Cohn-Vargas has been part of various initiatives to close the achievement gap, address racial equity, and make schools safe for students regardless of gender or sexual orientation. "This brings all these issues together," she says, by encouraging students to make their own schools safe places for everyone.Although each Not In Our School project is different, certain characteristics define local campaigns. Projects tend to emphasize student empowerment. "It's peer-to-peer, with students generating ideas. That's what these films are all about," Cohn-Vargas says. She has seen projects get started in the classroom, through clubs or after-school programs, or as part of student leadership efforts. Teachers or school leaders might initiate the conversation by sharing a video from the NIOT.org website, "but however it starts, you always want the project to come from kids," she adds.
Boss is a journalist and author or Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age.