by MICHAEL S. SHIBLER, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Rockford Public Schools
Spurred by the work of the Rockford Public Schools anti-bullying committee, East Rockford Middle School (ERMS) began the 2011-12 school year seeking to become a “No Place for Hate” school. No Place for Hate is an initiative of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which provides support to schools as they work to celebrate diversity and improve a culture of respect.
The process to become a No Place for Hate school involves the establishment of a coalition that plans and executes a minimum of three activities to promote acceptance and tolerance. Another requirement is signing the “Resolution of Respect,” in which students indicate their desire to treat others well and their intent to report bullying. The coalition at ERMS consists of staff members and parents, who solicited input from students in planning activities.
This year’s qualifying activities included a “Mix It Up at Lunch Day,” “Be Nice Day,” and “Celebrate Diversity Day.” For “Mix It Up at Lunch,” the cafeteria was rearranged and decorated, and students were creatively assigned to tables. Student leaders sat at each table to facilitate discussion among the students and everyone received ice cream to celebrate.
On “Be Nice Day,” all staff members and Teen Leadership students wore shirts that read “Be nice” and welcomed students with candy, high fives and handshakes.
To celebrate diversity, sixth- and seventh-graders watched the movie “Remember the Titans” and participated in follow-up discussion and activities in their homeroom classes.
ERMS and the No Place for Hate coalition have organized other activities to combat bullying and celebrate respect, and will continue the process by including an educational assembly about cyber-bullying, allowing students to nominate and recognize their classmates for acts of kindness, decorating the halls with smiley faces and positive messages, having students sign the “Resolution of Respect” banner, giving students bracelets that read “No Place for Hate,” and discouraging the use of defamatory terms.
The school was also recognized as a model school by the organization Teaching Tolerance for its organization of “Mix It Up at Lunch Day” in October 2011.
ERMS plans to continue to build and improve the programs to eliminate bullying and encourage diversity, acceptance and tolerance of one another, allowing students to feel safe and happy at school.
For further information, please contact ERMS Assistant Principal Kelly Amshey at (616) 863-6140 or firstname.lastname@example.org.