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‘No Place for Hate’ Campaign Falls Short of What We Really Need

Makenna Manti

Makenna Manti

No Place for Hate team lines up for a photo in their new shirts while holding up words of kindness.

Ari Beckett, Sage Creek High School

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Bullying is a silent, invisible disease that plagues our school. Some even believe it doesn’t happen anymore or doesn’t exist. When someone does something to harass or degrade another person, they don’t do it in front of other people for fear of getting caught. In the rare cases there is a ‘witness,’ people don’t know how to recognize what is happening as what it truly is: bullying. While I appreciate and understand the intentions of the “No Place for Hate” campaign, I am skeptical of the new campaign on our campus. I’m not convinced that it will be able to live up to its intentions.

The “No Place for Hate” campaign was introduced to our school in the end of October by the school climate committee. It originates from the Anti-Defamation League, a non profit organization that’s mission is “to secure justice and fair treatment to all,” specializing in anti-Semitism, the bias against the Jewish people.

One of the most glaring nuances of the campaign is that there must be a teacher witness of the bullying happening for any student to be punished. It comes down to a more legal protection than a pretentious rule. When a student is suspended or expelled, which can be considered a goal, it can be a legal matter that goes to a court to decide. It is, essentially, a student’s education at stake.

One of the teachers on the school climate committee is math department chair Jeff Simon. He explained that it’s really tough for school staff to provide consequences to students who are accused of “bullying” without a staff member seeing the incident.

“It doesn’t really stand up [in court] unless an adult actually witnessed the behavior,” Simon said, “you can’t actually bust somebody unless there’s [evidence].”

There are laws, including the First Amendment, that protect the right to say certain negative things and the right to hate speech. Although, California has some laws that protect students from such harassment in specific circumstances, which can result in suspension or expulsion.
On the other hand, not all teachers have the ear for what is a nasty comment, a slur or a dig at another student. I’ve seen a few times when a student took a dig at another student right in front of a teacher and the teacher either dismissed it as nothing or didn’t recognize it was a dig at all. But the face of the student on the other end of the comment shows that it just didn’t feel good to hear that kind of comment. Even if a teacher does realize something fishy is going on, how do they recognize when to intervene and when they are blowing a playful exchange out of proportion?

After hearing of some complaints about the fact that a teacher must witness a behavior, the climate committee is looking into ways of tracking the behaviors and offenders of jokes, slurs, comments and “microaggressions.”

“We are looking into this ‘Speak Up’ app that allows students to report anonymously,” Simon said, “so we can target offenders and start to reduce [the behaviors].”

On Wednesday, several advisory classes reported to the gym for what was called the largest advisory lesson ever. Simon led the lesson about the No Place for Hate campaign and highlighted the impacts of microaggressions and how seemingly “nothing” comments can be harmful to people. Although the lesson brought up an important aspect of bullying that is pressing, so much emphasis was put on these microaggressions that it had the effect of minimizing the message to the student body. As if these tiny, albeit harmful, comments are the only way students are bullied at school. The lesson had only scratched the surface of the issue and I hope that advisory lessons will cover more in the future.

Overall, making a plan to “stop” or “reduce” bullying is easy. The programs and techniques are out there, published on websites even. But executing the plan and actually having a substantial impact is where it gets complicated. The disease of bullying has many friends: bullies that hide it make it hard to see, misinterpretation of comments make it invisible and the law makes it silent. Bullying feeds off the weakness of our system and manifests itself in students at our school. Just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s a myth. We need a treatment that works so kids will treat each other better. We need teachers that are armored with the knowledge of how to combat and recognize bullying. We need students who come into the problem with an open mind and kind words. That is our solution.

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