Not In Our Town & Safe Schools: A Report from Iowa | Not in Our Town

Not In Our Town & Safe Schools: A Report from Iowa

By Matthew Tullis, Project Director for Safe Schools/Healthy Students in Marshalltown, IA

Originally published by the Iowa Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development 

The city of Marshalltown understands the importance of collaboration. For years the community and its school district have risen to embrace challenges and work together. In the spring of 2012, Mike Schlesinger, Publisher and General Manager of Marshalltown Newspaper, LLC, gathered key community leaders together to address the issue of bullying and hate. Based on a common concern about tragic consequences resulting from bullying that have been reported in Iowa and across the nation, Marshalltown decided immediately to be proactive and spread a common message that this type of behavior is not acceptable in our town.

What is now known as the Not In Our Town: Marshalltown Project, immediately caught the town's attention and gained support. As a federal Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant recipient, the Marshalltown Schools were in a position to strengthen the district's efforts to improving school climate and safety measures. Businesses, local churches, local foundations, and service agencies quickly joined the initiative to spread a message of hope. Much has been accomplished in a few short months and ideas for the future of this initiative abound. To date, the following captures some of the events and activities:

  • Community Unity Picnic, open invitation to the community to gather
  • Rachel's Challenge assembly presented in schools and at a community event
  • Community Rally on the Courthouse Square with mayoral proclamation and media coverage
  • Sales of thousands of Not In Our Town orange t-shirts
  • Opportunity for citizens to sign a pledge—more than 2,000 names published in newspaper
  • Student group formed at Marshalltown High School (70 student members) to spread a message of kindness throughout the district
  • Musical production of HONK! involving 5th/6th grade students at local Orpheum Theater
  • Screenings of the films FINDING KIND and LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS with speakers' panel following each
  • Creation of a Not In Our Town float displayed at home football game, Oktemberfest Parade, and Homecoming Parade
  • An "Orange-Out" at a home high school football game. The community wore orange, football players affixed Not In Our Town stickers to helmets, and a paper chain was presented at half-time documenting student acts of kindness on each link that stretched nearly a quarter-mile around the track
  • Observation of National Anti-Bullying Day on October 10

As a community, Marshalltown believes very strongly in this message of hope and acceptance. As a result, the national Not In Our Town organization has taken notice. The Working Group and PBS (public broadcasting) have taken a keen interest in Marshalltown's work to this point. What makes the story unique is that no tragic event has occurred in Marshalltown. The community has chosen to keep in that way!

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