A new program began at Crestwood Middle School this week when the Royal Palm Beach school embarked on its journey to become a “No Place for Hate” school.
All school staff members attended a special presentation and training session Monday led by the Anti-Defamation League as part of the program.
Over the summer, Assistant Principal Melissa Kaliser attended the superintendent’s symposium on anti-bullying and learned about the No Place for Hate program, which she later introduced to the school.
Principal Dr. Stephanie Nance embraced No Place for Hate, an initiative created to help with harmony among a diverse school group. It is an anti-bullying program that challenges prejudice, bigotry and name-calling, focusing on respect.
“The program is… educating educators on how to create environments where diversity is embraced, respected and valued, and providing us with skills that we can use if we are experiencing some differences of opinions in terms of cultural awareness,” Nance said. “One aspect of it is providing us with tools and information that we can use to actively address issues that arise between students at school.”
Attendees learned what bias and stereotyping are during the special presentation, including things like what it looks and sounds like, in addition to discussing bullying and cyberbullying.
During the training session, everyone was asked to share their personal experiences with bullying, eighth-grade business education/keyboarding teacher Jina Barthelemy said, including how bullying impacts them as teachers. “We all are affected by bullying, directly or indirectly,” she said.
Whether they know someone being bullied, or someone doing the bullying, there are consequences to the behavior, Barthelemy explained.
“It’s our job, it’s our duty, not just as teachers, but parents, just being older than the students, having more experience, to help them along the way in any way that we can,” she said.
Technology has changed bullying to the point where it has evolved into writing unkind things online that are shared with hundreds within minutes, and once it is online, it cannot be erased.
Getting kids to talk is important, said Barthelemy, who encourages students to come to her with problems.
“Pull me aside. Send me an e-mail. Do something. Don’t keep it to yourself if you’re going through something. Everybody’s loved. Somebody out there cares for you,” she said. “I feel like it’s important for kids to know that somebody cares for you.”
Keeping open lines of communication was stressed, which Barthelemy considers imperative. She hopes that the program will make a difference and help teachers and students recognize and act upon bullying.
“The vision for this program is really to strengthen awareness and appreciation and support for cultural diversity,” Nance said.
The program was personalized, which increases its ability to be internalized.
“It means even more to you,” Kaliser said. “There’s a lot of things that go on in a school, that sometimes when you’re in a classroom, you might not know everything that is happening on the campus. It’s also nice for the staff to see and hear different things and different ways to be proactive.”
The program aligns with Nance’s school vision, which has an aspect that is centered on climate and culture.
“It provides us with awareness and an avenue be able to work toward creating an environment in which all stakeholders — teachers, students, parents and community people — are all appreciated and respected for their differences,” Nance said. “Ultimately, at the end of the day, our diversity is truly our strength, and the only way that we can really understand and appreciate that is through training and skill development.”
The training that staff members received will allow them to become more aware and rethink their relationships.
“The conversations today really helped us to better understand the impact of social media, how it’s being used, how we can educate our children to use proper social media etiquette, and what it looks like when that’s in disarray,” Nance said. “Then how to take all of those pieces to create an opportunity to teach them with appropriate skills how to interact, and the ramifications of communicating on social media, both positive and negative.”
Administrators want the school to be able to teach the students and parents about social media.
“We want Crestwood to be a place where students feel safe, and they want to come to school and socialize,” Kaliser said. “It’s a lifelong journey that they’re on. When there is that piece of not feeling safe, that will impact their learning environment and experience. I think it’s very important with us being a No Place for Hate, that the students do feel safe, that they can go to school and learn and be successful.”
Royal Palm Beach schools at all levels are working together for program continuity, Nance said. The high school is already designated as a No Place for Hate school, and Crestwood will be partnering with the school through its established peer ambassador program.
Equipping teachers with common language for addressing issues and concerns is also important. Next, Nance said, is getting local elementary schools into the program.
“We really want to make this a true community effort, so that it’s something that’s continuous at every level,” Nance said.
Last month, during National Bullying Prevention Month, Kaliser said that the school staff created an activity and a poster contest. The school’s English classes are partnering with Royal Palm Beach High School on an essay contest.
“We feel strongly that creating a single school culture centered on this initiative is something that we all value and see the importance of,” Nance said. “We don’t want that knowledge or flow of information to be isolated or contained to one school. This is something that we really feel is going to be beneficial. We are very excited.”
A strong educational experience is important, Nance said, but there are other pieces that have to be in place. “It was really awesome to be able to have a venue in which students were completely at the core of the discussion, and how we as educators can ensure that we are doing all that we can to provide an environment in which kids feel safe and can be successful, academically,” Nance said. “At the end of the day, other things have to be in place before you can teach children.”
To learn more about the No Place for Hate initiative, visit http://florida.adl.org.
ABOVE: Doug Cureton of the Anti-Defamation League leads this week’s “No Place for Hate” training at Crestwood Middle School.