On Wednesday, April 1, over 160 community members gathered at JLS Middle School in Palo Alto to watch the premiere screening of Not In Our School: Palo Alto.
The film looks at Palo Alto Unified School District’s “Not In Our Schools” month, where across the district, students in elementary, middle, and high schools participate in activities centered around fostering safe school environments and ending intolerance.
The event, which drew many students, teachers, parents, and concerned members of the community, began with opening remarks by Becki Cohn-Vargas, PAUSD district official and one of the lead organizers for Not In Our Schools month; The Working Group’s Patrice O’Neill; and PAUSD Board Member Barbara Klausner.
The film profiles PAUSD’s Not In Our School activities from last year, where students had classroom discussions, did art projects, and led lunchtime activities raising awareness about prejudice. Following the screening of the film, the audience split off into small groups to talk about what they had just seen. Within the small groups, attendees related their personal experiences dealing with the issues of stereotyping and intolerance presented in the film. They also affirmed their commitment to take steps towards standing up against hate in their community.
Last night’s event launched “Not In Our Schools” month activities in Palo Alto. The month focuses on teaching students to be upstanders and to join as a community to stand up to bullying and acts of intolerance. As part of this year’s activities, Gunn and Palo Alto High Schools each have devoted their own week to “Not In Our Schools” and will engage in events ranging from classroom discussions and film screenings to T-shirt decorating and musical performances. The district has also partnered with TheatreWorks to bring the play Oskar and the Big Bully Battle, which teaches students to treat each other respectfully and to stand up for one another, to the elementary schools. There will also be a number of public programs held to assist parents and youth in dealing with prejudice and learning to become upstanders.
Now in its fourth year, PAUSD’s “Not In Our Schools” campaign has become a model for students and educators across the country. The program was initially launched in 2005 with a Palo Alto screening of the film Not In Our Town Northern California. The PAUSD LGBTQ Committee reached out to The Working Group to bring a sustained program to the schools. Since then, the “Not In Our Schools” program has grown year after year in the district, expanding to include activities at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.
If you attended last night’s program, we would love to hear your thoughts about the film or what sort of things you took away from the evening. Please share with us in the comments any actions you’ll commit to taking for Not In Our Schools month as well.
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