No Place for Hate
School had been in session for scarcely a month when a painted swastika appeared near a boy’s locker at Boulder’s Manhattan Middle School. A recent immigrant from Israel, he felt the swastika was targeted at him, and feared for his life. The principal, Martha Gustafson, instinctively washed off the graffiti. But that didn’t erase the boy’s fears – or her own anger about what she interpreted as hate.
The next day Martha addressed the student body with excerpts from a speech by Nobel Peace winner Elie Wiesel: “I swore never to be silent whenever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides.” The boy responsible for the graffiti identified himself, and engaged in the restorative justice process. He created a peace flag and wrote an artist statement about peace, calling his mistake an “adolescent moment.”
“This student felt terrible about what he had done. But he helped correct the problem. And the other kids followed. We collected 450 letters of support to the Israeli boy, and delivered them to his family. They thought it was beautiful,” says Martha. The act marked the beginning of a campaign to ensure that hate, bias, and bullying would never be among the school’s values.
A teacher at Manhattan knew about the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization whose mission is to “stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” A conversation was initiated with ADL about addressing bias issues, resulting in the introduction of ADL’s No Place for Hate campaign to Manhattan. The campaign is designed to empower schools to promote respect for individual and group differences while challenging prejudice and bigotry.
“Hate is a learned value. If you can learn it, you can unlearn it, and take steps to prevent it by working with children at different stages of development. They must be taught to understand that diversity is a positive thing,” says Bruce DeBoskey, Mountain States regional director for ADL. “Although some progress has been made, we still have much work to do to create cultures and climates in schools where all students feel welcome, included, and safe.”
No Place for Hate fosters a culture of collaboration and cooperation in schools. Students are asked to sign a Resolution of Respect, which schools display so that everyone is aware of the commitment to diversity. Schools also complete activities listed in ADL’s Positive Impact! resource guide’s “101 Ways to Make a Positive Impact in Your Community.” And students are encouraged to participate in training and leadership programs. At Manhattan, many successful programs have resulted: a 6th grade bully proofing class, a 7th grade class called Becoming an Ally, and an 8th grade advisory program sponsored by PeaceJam.
Manhattan became a certified No Place for Hate school in May 2008. These achievements were fueled in part by the Gay & Lesbian Fund’s annual gifts to ADL, which have averaged $5,500 since 1998. According to DeBoskey, this support is central to ADL’s life mission.
“Our commitment to advancing social justice comes out of a history where the Jewish people a few generations ago were nearly obliterated because of hatred. ADL believes we have to stand shoulder to shoulder with all people, because if the rights of any are sacrificed, the rights of none are safe,” he says.