School programs to prevent bias, harassment and bullying
For the past 20 years I have been working with students, teachers and administrators in the United States, Canada, Europe and the Middle East to create schools that are as safe and respectful as possible. My work is premised on the importance of providing students and teachers with an understanding of two critical aspects of bias and harassment: first, the risk of escalation from the routine use of degrading language and slurs to harsher words, to threats, to property damage and, finally, to violence and, second, the intensely destructive impact of bias and harassment on students who are targeted. Equally important my work provides educators and students with strategies and skills for intervening in low key and respectful ways when bias and harassment occurs in their presence. As increasing numbers of students move from being passive bystanders when bias and bullying occurs in their presence to young leaders who have the confidence to speak up for others the climate of schools begin to change.
Focus Groups and School Climate Assessments
Prior to conducting workshops in schools I facilitate focus groups with students, and sometimes with faculty and staff. The purpose of the focus groups is to learn about the issues of bias and harassment that exist in the particular school or schools that I will be working in. The information gained from focus groups allows me to meet with school leaders to develop strategies for addressing these issues. In most schools I provide administrators with a written school climate assessment that summarizes the results of the focus groups and provides recommendations for prevention of bias and harassment.
I lead half-day and full day workshops for faculty and staff to provide them with an understanding of bias and harassment at their schools and with strategies and skills for response and prevention both in classrooms and in hallways. These workshops are highly interactive.
Conflict Resolution: In some schools I provide workshops for faculty and staff on effectively addressing conflict both between adults and between adults and students.
Student Leader Workshops
I facilitate full day workshops for groups of 40 or more students in high school or middle school (ages 11 through 18). These workshops provide students with an understanding of the emotional and physical impact of bias on those targeted and with practical skills for low key and respectful interventions when other students use degrading language or slurs. Each Student Leader Workshop should be attended by one or two members of faculty or staff who will observe the day’s activities and later will bring the group together for followup sessions. I provide these faculty or staff members with a written guide for conducting followup sessions.
I present to students in large groups on issues of bias and harassment and the importance of student leadership in ensuring that every students feels safe and respected in school.
I use two approaches for these assemblies: a 45 minute presentation and a 90 minute program which allows students to talk in small groups about the issues of bias that affect their school and what students can do to improve the social climate.
In many school I facilitate conversations between students focusing on an issue or issues that divisive. These issues may range from gender, to race, to religion, to sexual orientation … to whatever causes friction or division among students. This program provides students with the skills and confidence to express their opinions about issues they care deeply about but to do so with respect for those classmates whose views differ from their own. The dialogues have been very successful in reducing tensions between students.
A Respect Team is a school club or group whose members focus, with a faculty/staff advisor, on increasing respect and civility in their school. I have conducted initial and followup trainings for Respect Teams in the United States, Northern Ireland, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Poland.
Teams create projects to send the message that bias, harassment and bullying has no place in their school. Teams have organized school assemblies on reducing bullying, created bulletin boards to educate students about the impact of bias and harassment, and have presented to elementary school students on the importance of treating everyone with respect.
Programs for Parents
I conduct evening programs for parents to discuss: the issue of bias, harassment and bullying both generally and at the school, the steps students and faculty/staff are taking at the school to respond to and prevent bias and harassment, and what parents can do to help their children deal with these difficult issues.
I lead training-of-trainers conferences to prepare faculty and staff to facilitate Student Leader Workshops. This provides schools with the capacity to continue these workshops year after year without needing to bring in outside presenters. Often I come back once a year to conduct a followup workshop for existing trainers or to train a new group of faculty and staff to conduct workshops for students.