Working with Watchung Regional High School is always inspiring. The connection between Not In Our School and Jamie Lott-Jones and her colleague Mary Sok began with the production of a film about their school’s efforts to address cyberbullying. The partnership did not stop there. Not In Our School has been hosted at the school, met with two superintendents, and has featured Watchung’s efforts many times on NIOT.org.
As a school district administrator, Matt Tullis has played an important role in linking his school district to the Marshalltown Not In Our Town community effort to address bullying and intolerance. With his leadership, the school district has taken a strong stand, sponsoring Not In Our School schoolwide activities like Friday Night Lights and classroom activities. In 2013, Matt was sent as an emissary from Marshalltown to Hungary as that country began to set up their efforts. Marshalltown will be present in force with a contingent at the Not In Our Town National Leadership Gathering where you can learn more about their inspiring efforts. —Becki Cohn-Vargas, Not In Our School Director Tell us about your school community.
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
Tracy Maier attends an awards ceremony for daughter Hanna, as she receives the Upstander of the Week award from The Bully Project. Tracy Maier is a Pennsylvania mom who moved into action after her child was bullied. She contacted Not In Our School to help not only her daughter, but all the children in her area who have been bullied and asked for help in getting things started in her community. Since that time, we have been in touch as both Tracy and her daughter Hanna have become leaders, taking risks, speaking with civic leaders, and organizing campaigns—all things that they never had done before. It is an example of how anyone can step up. Photos of Tracy and her daughter’s activities are featured in the Not In Our School Parent Guide. —Becki Cohn-Vargas, Not In Our School Director Tell us about your school community.
Caroline Tu Farley is a founding member of the Ft. Collins Not In Our Town Alliance (NIOTA). Since the founding in 2005 she has worked in several capacities with the organization, continuing to promote diversity and inclusion in the Ft. Collins community. She started the NIOTA book club in 2009, which is a monthly community group that reads and discusses books from a diversity angle. Caroline serves on the NIOTA Council as Prevention Team Leader and was instrumental in the selection of NIOTA as the best nonprofit in Colorado working with diversity from the Colorado Gay & Lesbian Fund.
We met Eran Thompson when he came to the first Not in Our Town National Leadership Gathering in 2006 in Bloomington, IL. Eran was in high school during the time of the original events in Billings in the early 90s, but he became a community organizer and was asked to join in an effort to renew the local Not In Our Town group. After the Gathering, he went back and did just that! The Not In Our Town Billings group has thrived under his leadership. Not In Our Town National took notice and invited Eran to serve as a member of our board of directors. It is because of Eran that we are all returning to Billings this June to celebrate the 20th anniversary with the second National Leadership Gathering. Oh and when you meet him, ask him to perform your favorite Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quote—he will nail it. —Rhian Miller, co-founder of Not In Our Town/The Working Group Eran Thompson, chair of Not In Our Town Billings Tell us about your community and the work you do there.
Rabbi James Cohn, left, at the premiere of Not In Our Town, Light In The Darkness in Charleston Rabbi James Cohn began his work to stop bias and hate in 1996 when he helped organize faith leaders in Greenville, SC against an anti-gay resolution passed by the town council. In his role as rabbi of Temple Israel in Charleston, WV, Rabbi Cohn continues his work to build inclusion and safe communities through education, community development and committee work. He also serves on the steering committee of OneKanawha, a group in the Not In Our Town network that focuses on creating an inclusive community and working towards social justice in Charleston. Tell us about your community: Charleston, WV (“Charlie West”) is a progressive community situated on the banks of the Kanawha River. Rich in history and culture, the people of this valley cherish diversity and respect differences. The area is economically stressed with the departure in past decades of important industries and with inevitable changes facing the coal industry, which is a major economic base. The average age here is increasing as the population trickles downward.
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.
Alexandra Lee-Jobe is a longtime social activist and educator in Davis, CA. An active member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis, Alex has led the organization's Anti-Racism Task Team and worked tirelessly to initiate and improve diversity and inclusion in her community. Recently Alex has become a founding member of the Davis Phoenix Coalition, a member of the Not In Our Town Network. This group is working on creating an inclusive community center servicing the diverse Davis community. Tell us about your community. Davis is a small city with a population of 66,000 residents and 33,000 college students. The University of California, Davis is the largest employer of 28,000. It's a bike-friendly city with a well-respected school system and a "liberal" community. It is also known as the second most educated city in the U.S. I went to college here, in 1972-73, receiving a B.S. in Applied Behavioral Science.
Tom O’Mara is a longtime activist in his home county of Shasta, California. His community rallied together after a racially motivated shooting and formed the now-Shasta County Citizens Advocating Respect in 1988. In the early 1990s, Tom joined the group, which has been active through three major hate crimes including the murder of a gay couple by white supremacists, profiled in a Not In Our Town film. He now works closely with law enforcement, serving as a bridge between the community and the police.