palo alto | Not in Our Town

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Several Palo Alto, CA schools host Not In Our School weeks this month, devoting time to recognizing and combating discrimination and stereotypes. Not In Our School (NIOS) has been present at Gunn High School for 12 years. While Gunn promotes acceptance and awareness to its students year-round, the NIOS week allows students to actively think about these topics and participate in assemblies and activities with classmates. Gunn’s theme is “We’re all in this together,” according to Palo Alto Online.
Identity safe classrooms are those in which teachers strive to ensure students that their social identities are an asset rather than a barrier to success in the classroom. Acknowledging students’ identities, rather than trying to be colorblind, can build the foundation for strong positive relationships.
Palo Alto High interviews younger brother Noah Hornikat It Gets Indie last year. Photo Courtesy of Julian Hornik. When Julian Hornik was cyber-bullied for being gay, he didn’t have to worry about having anything but the full support from his family. In middle school, the young musician found derogatory comments on YouTube videos of his performances. Classmates created a Facebook page that targeted him for being gay. With the support of his family, he said it wasn’t hard for him to “push it away.” Julian and his younger brother Noah are part of an extended family of people who support LGBT rights. While Noah has not personally experienced bullying, he believes the internet allows people to feel “safer and more confident” when they bully and harass others. “They don’t have to see the impact,” Noah said. “People will go a lot farther.”
In a few hours, the end-of-day bell will ring at Gunn High School and students will gather in the school squad with a scream. After a daylong vow of silence—representing the inability of many teens to express themselves fully because of sexual orientation or gender identity—this communal scream will symbolize the "Breaking of the Silence" that is felt by LGBTQ youth and allies. The Day of Silence activity is just one of many during Gunn's Not In Our School Week. The Palo Alto, Calif. high school has hosted a Not In Our School for nearly a decade to "promote acceptance, awareness and identity safety." "One of the reasons why I like NIOS Week is that it reminds staff and students that it’s OK to actively participate in what’s going on around you, and that you should be supported for standing up against something that isn’t right," said Kristy Blackburn, reflecting on how she uses Not In Our School activities in her English classroom.
“We felt like we were part of something bigger, sharing what we were doing, and the idea of being leaders was very inspiring.” — Becki Cohn Vargas, Ed.D. Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas is a veteran educator and longtime ally of Not In Our Town. In this piece, penned in 2008, Dr. Cohn-Vargas lays out the lessons from the Palo Alto Unified School District, which embraced Not In Our School activities in 2007. Although Dr. Cohn-Vargas is no longer with the district, she has been instrumental in developing Not In Our School programs and the Palo Alto district’s Not In Our Schools month continues to thrive. Since 2007, the Palo Alto Unified School District has sponsored Not In Our School Palo Alto, a districtwide annual month-long event where students, teachers, administrators and parents engage in activities and discussions about how to address hate, bullying, and harassment at school.
KQED is broadcasting an updated version of our Not In Our School: Palo Alto program. This broadcast includes Gunn High School's recent response to the Westboro Baptist Church, a short video that went viral on Not In Our Town's YouTube channel and some recent footage from Gunn's Not In Our School week this year. Below you'll find a list of all 13 summer showtimes. On this KQED page, you can also sign up for email reminders of a particular airing. The program will also be repeated when school is back in session during the fall. Program Description In Palo Alto, student leaders, administrators and teachers put on an annual Not in Our School month of activities about preventing intolerance, including class discussions, a dissolving stereotypes pool, "Not In Our Town" video screenings, and student-produced videos. Palo Alto's Not In Our School month has become a model for engaging students in discussion and action against intolerance and bullying. Channels & Airdates KQED 9
The Not In Our School posters and flyers below are part of Palo Alto Unified School District's ongoing "Not In Our School" campaign. Middle and high schools across the district each dedicate a full week of events to promote acceptance and diversity, with daily activities focusing on students as “upstanders” — those who do not simply stand by in the face of injustice, but act to make change. Now entering its fourth year, Palo Alto's Not In Our School campaign has become a model for how schools can engage students in learning, conversation, and action against hate, bigotry, and bullying. For tips on coordinating your own Not In Our School campaign, read "Starting an NIOS Campaign" by Becki Cohn-Vargas of Palo Alto Unified School District.  
  Students from Palo Alto spoke passionately about their experiences dealing with ethnic and anti-gay slurs and cyberbullying at a Not In Our Schools event held at the Media Center last month. The school-community conversation focused on bullying and strategies for how to be an upstander. Here is a powerful example from the event.   A high school student talks about being the target of an ethnic slur on Facebook as part of a conversation about cyberbullying. The event started off with The Working Group’s film Not In Our School: Palo Alto, which features leaders behind last year’s “Not In Our Schools” month, as well as highlights from the different activities across the district. Following the film, Becki Cohn-Vargas from the Palo Alto Unified School District led the group in discussion, touching on hate slurs, bullying, and standing up to make schools safe and inclusive. Here is a teacher talking about her experience confronting hateful comments in her classroom:
By Brian Lau As the fourth annual “Not In Our Schools” month in Palo Alto comes to a close, we wanted to share some of the inspiring activities from students across the district. Gunn High School and Palo Alto High School each dedicated a full week of events to promote acceptance and diversity, with daily activities focusing on students as “upstanders” — those who do not simply stand by in the face of injustice, but act to make change. Here are few highlights from both campuses. Gunn High School: You Are Not Alone
  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.