not in our school | Not in Our Town

not in our school

When I became a Junior at Soledad High School in 2011, I realized two things: time was running out, and I needed to do something to distinguish myself for college. Therefore, in order to stand out, I looked to personal experience: bullying. Little did I know that what started as a silver lining for my college application would change my life, and make me recognize that extending one’s own moral determination would be just as fulfilling as getting a higher education.
In preparation for reading Farhana Zia’s The Garden of My Imaan, a lovely young adult novel about an American Muslim girl named Aliya, my students and I wrote down what we knew about Muslims. I teach in a public middle school where the majority of students are white and Christian, so I expected a steep learning curve. I encouraged all the students to write down their thoughts and ideas and to be open and honest about their thinking. Sometimes I would chime in and contradict incorrect ideas, but mostly I would just record student thoughts on the whiteboard as they recorded their thoughts on our worksheet.
On Oct. 17, 2014, Aquil Rasheed, an Oakland teacher and NIOS activist gave a Not In Our School Trainer-of-Trainers workshop, sponsored by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to teams of students and their teachers from 20 schools in northern Michigan. At the session, students were introduced to the ideas of bullying and intolerance and learned ways to be upstanders, people who stand up and speak up for themselves and others to stop harm from being done. Here he shares about his experience at the Traverse City Anti-Bullying Conference.
By Ilana Fonariov "I really wanted to see a change in my school site where there was a lot of bullying and name-calling happening. Issues included low self-esteem, teasing, and girls getting mocked for dressing like tomboys," said Jasmine Frye, the student support specialist for an after-school program at an east Oakland elementary school, located in a low-income Latino community. She came to the school by-way of Bay Area Community Resources and Americorp, right after completing her sociology degree at UC Davis. Her school is located in an area with high rates of violence and crime in an underserved community where liquor stores outnumber the grocery stores. The school is the main resource site for children of the area.“I've seen a lot of kids who've seen someone shot in front of them, seen a lot of negative things and that definitely impacted their lives and the way they address things,” she said.
Join us this weekend for the National Leadership Gathering in Billings, Montana to engage with active community leaders about making our towns and schools safe and inclusive. Featuring film screenings, workshops, events, and panel discussions, the National Leadership Gathering is a great opportunity to learn positive community action and bring it back to your town! At our last National Leadership Gathering in 2006, youth leaders came together to share their efforts to make their schools more accepting. Their work and spirit of collaboration embody what it means to be an upstander. Find their discussion in this short video.  
Video: Oak Ridge Paints Over Pain The community in Oak Ridge, TN, recently came together to use art to speak up against bullying. The activity, called Paint Over Pain, brought in community members ranging from young children to recent high school graduates to paint powerful messages of hope in the face of bullying. The video features many art pieces created during the activity as well as messages such as, “Be yourself,” “Silence is acceptance” and “You are not alone.” Valerie Hughes launched Not In Our Town in Oak Ridge after her daughter was assaulted in a classroom. Her efforts with Not In Our Town promote a safe and welcoming community for people of all backgrounds. Hughes coordinated this event in Oak Ridge, will be leading a Paint Over Pain activity at the Not In Our Town National Leadership Gathering later this month. Watch the entire video here.  
Lockhart Elementary School teacher Joanne Saunders has worked tirelessly to help the students in her school take action to both prevent violence and bullying and to create kindness. We learned about Joanne’s great work in St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands, through Not In Our School’s Facebook page. We thought it would be wonderful to create an interchange between Lockhart School and Duveneck school in Palo Alto, CA, where Not In Our School (NIOS) activities have also been expanding. We were thrilled to hear the partnership has begun and continues. Read how one school proactively is addressing ways to reduce youth violence. Their Facebook page tells the wonderful story of their efforts. —Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas, Not In Our School Director By Joanne E. M. Saunders
The Not In Our School (NIOS) Video Action Kit is a comprehensive toolkit featuring 20 films, lessons, and resources designed to motivate students to speak out against bullying, and create new ways to make their schools safe for everyone. Newly updated with lessons aligned to Common Core State Standards and California Health Education Content Standards, the NIOS Video Action Kit provides tools you can use to activate your entire school community, and incorporate social-emotional learning and identity-safe practices throughout your school. The NIOS Video Action Kit contains everything you need to need to launch your own Not in Our School anti-bullying campaign, including: Original Not in Our Town DVD and lesson guide Not in Our Town: When Hate Happens Here DVD and lesson guide 18 short films showcasing positive student action, with lessons organized by theme and grade level Step-by-step Not In Our School Quick Start Guide
Livia Thomas and I met in 2012 when she sent on a note of desperation about a bullying incident at her elementary school. Principal Judy Nye and Livia were terribly concerned that their well-managed and peaceful Grimmer Elementary School had ongoing bullying that had not been reported, while hosts of students were negatively impacted. Grimmer’s situation is not uncommon. Students often are afraid or ashamed to tell adults about being bullied. Dr. Jonathan Cohen, Director of the National School Climate Center, says that in numerous cases, bullying is not reported while staff are oblivious that a calm exterior masks terrible incidents of bullying, teasing, and intolerance. Bullying is everywhere, but taking concrete steps to prevent and respond make a big difference. That is just what Livia and Principal Judy did. That is why we selected Grimmer as the site of our first elementary film production and we were thrilled with the outcome. —Becki Cohn-Vargas, Not In Our School Director
  If you ever wondered what one person can do, meet Susan Guess. After her 8-year old daughter was bullied two years ago, she moved into action together with her daughter to raise awareness and get her whole community involved in anti-bullying activities.