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In late November, around Thanksgiving, all students at John Jay High School had an opportunity to sign the Resolution of Respect in their social studies classes. It said, in part, “I will seek to gain understanding of those who are different from myself. I will speak out against prejudice and discrimination. I will reach out to support those who are targets of hate."
The resolutions were hung in the school’s main hallway next to the Unity Tree mosaic—a beautiful symbol of peace created by students last year.
The initiative was sponsored by the No Place for Hate committee—a team of teachers, parents, and students that coalesced around improving and maintaining a positive school culture so all students can thrive.
One of the committee leaders, social studies teacher Marc McAlley, referenced the dedication to inclusion and respect that coursed through the student body last year after Judith Altmann, a Holocaust survivor, spoke at the school.
“We didn’t want that to be a one-time thing,” said McAlley. “We contacted the Anti-Defamation League for additional resources. No Place for Hate is their program.”
“When I heard about it, I was interested,” said Taylor Bell, a junior, and student leader on the No Place for Hate committee. “Anything that makes students feel safer is a good thing.”
No Place for Hate has been holding monthly open forums. The steering group, made up of two student leaders—Lauren Munoz, a freshman, and Bell, as well as Vicki Weiss, an English teacher, McAlley, and Kim Piccolino, Assistant Principal, weaves student ideas into a tapestry of programs.
One of those programs was Kindness Day, in mid-January. Each student was asked to pledge one act of kindness in English class. They wrote them on sticky-notes and hung them on classroom doors.
They’ve been disappearing ever since. After students complete the action, they remove the post-it.
The No Place for Hate committee is also working with the DASA (Dignity for All Students) Club on John Jay High School's Wellness Day, an annual event each spring. They’ll look for ways to include bullying prevention and anti-bias—such as the hallmarks of healthy relationships and a discussion on perceptions of the word ‘Indian,” John Jay’s mascot—to self-care essentials like nutrition, mindfulness, and drug and alcohol prevention.
Over fifteen hundred schools around the country have earned No Place for Hate designation including Somers High School, Dobbs Ferry High School, and Edgemont Junior-Senior High School. John Jay hopes to complete the process this spring.