Help Us Reach Every U.S. State with Anti-Bullying Training, Tools & Films! | Not in Our Town

Help Us Reach Every U.S. State with Anti-Bullying Training, Tools & Films!

Becki Cohn-Vargas, Not In Our School DirectorBy Becki Cohn-Vargas, Not In Our School Director 

It is one thing to read the statistic that half of hate crimes in the United States are committed by teens. It is totally different when teens commit a heinous hate crime right in your community. When 17 year-old Gwen Arajo was murdered by local teens in 2002, her last word "Please don't, I have a family," didn't stop the teenagers from beating and strangling her to death.

Gwen was from a town I drove through every day on my way to work as a director of curriculum at a nearby K-12 school district. As an educator and mother, her death hit close to home. I needed to do something.  
I heard about the film Not In Our Town Northern California: When Hate Happens Here that showed how the community joined to say NOT IN OUR TOWN after Gwen's murder, along with other hate and bullying incidents in the region. I gathered teachers, students and the PTA to sponsor the film in our district. Three hundred people came. We had felt hopeless, but the film showed the power in a community that comes together to stop hate.
Seeking a way to address and prevent bullying and violence, we launched a NOT IN OUR SCHOOL Campaign. Before we even got started, a student was attacked with hateful slurs. We had just seen on film how everyday people stood up to hate, homophobia, anti-Semitism and racism. We needed to create a space where bullying was unacceptable, not only for this student, but all students.
Our NOT IN OUR SCHOOL work included media and student-led activities to raise awareness, bridge differences and create inclusion. It quickly spread to other high schools. Students told us, "We can’t just do this once. It needs to happen every year." To this day, a decade later, that district conducts annual NOT IN OUR SCHOOL activities.


Fast forward to the present. I joined the national NOT IN OUR SCHOOL team as director. After 30 years in the field, I know first-hand that the NOT IN OUR SCHOOL model helps create a culture where students feel safe and accepted.

NIOS provides free access to over 50 short films and lesson plans organized by theme and grade-level. We also coach and provide workshops to schools and districts.

Though 49 states have now passed anti-bullying legislation, many schools lack comprehensive anti-bullying programs. Unfortunately, the schools with the highest need often have the fewest resources. We get calls for help daily.

Not In Our School can help. Your donation will fund:

  • Hands-on coaching to help schools develop their personalized anti-bullying program
  • New films and activity guides geared toward ending racism, homophobia, and religious intolerance
  • Elementary-level films, often requested by the education community


Every day, news outlets showcase bullied youth. Muslim and Sikh students are called terrorists, special education students are ridiculed, girls are called sluts and others are called anti-gay and racist slurs. With cyberbullying, the damage spreads far and wide. Consequences of relentless bullying include serious emotional problems, school absences, lower grades and even suicide, now reaching heartbreaking proportions.

Our networks, films and lesson plans help create sustainable programs that not only address bullying, but all forms of intolerance. We work to ensure programs are youth-led and turn bystanders into upstanders who stand up for themselves and others.

The rampage of bullying is in EVERY school.

Your donation will help NIOS spread, develop more resources, reach more schools and train students, parents and teachers to start their own NOT IN OUR SCHOOL campaigns.

We will not stop until every school makes it a priority to to stand up to bullying and intolerance!

Thank you for your support,

Becki Cohn-Vargas, Ed.D.


Add new comment