Since its introduction to Coronado Unified School District (CUSD) in 2020, the Anti-Defamation League’s anti-bias and bullying prevention program, No Place for Hate (NPFH) has taken a new form as a club at Coronado High School (CHS) for the 2021-2022 school year. Several members of Coronado Unified School District staff spoke with The Coronado Eagle & Journal to talk more about NPFH, and their work to promote social and emotional well being within CUSD schools through NPFH.
Director of Special Programs at CHS, Shane Schmeichel, described the choice to introduce NPFH in 2020: “Making sure that every student felt comfortable and felt like school is an extension of their home was a framework that fit at the time and place we were in last year.” Before NPFH became a club in the 2021-2022 school year, it was introduced in 2020 through both on campus and remote activities.
At CHS these activities included events called, “Compliment stickers,” “The Identity Iceberg and Me.” A third activity revolved around social justice poetry.
“No student was negatively impacted by not participating,” said Schmeichel. “They were optional. However because we were in a hybrid environment, it may have looked sounded and felt like it was mandatory. However no student received a negative consequence for not attending. The philosophy of NPFH is choice based participation.”
No Place for Hate has garnered attention from several concerned CUSD parents, specifically for its call outlined in the NPFH handbook to move beyond kindness to social justice. However, according to Shmeichel, the NPFH handbook was not used as a guide by CUSD staff. “We did not [use the NPFH handbook] -- we facilitated charter education activities,” he said.
Schmeichel emphasized a positive student response to NPFH activities. “Anytime we give students a safe space to be highly involved in their own culture of the environment in which they’re in,” he said, “it boasts positive consequences. Instead of being told what to do, students get to participate in choosing how they act and support each other.”
Schmeichel also expanded on social and emotional well being as a means to not only a more inclusive school climate, but academic excellence. “Any program that has focus on character education,” he said, “always has an impact on students being able to be in a place to be able to access their academic education.”
According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), a multidiscilpinary network of researchers, educators, practitioners, and child advocates across the country, “hundreds of studies offer consistent evidence that Social Emotional Learning (SEL) bolsters academic performance.” CASEL also reports that, “The higher academic performance of SEL program participants translated into an 11 percentile-point gain in achievement, suggesting that SEL programs tend to bolster, rather than detract from, students’ academic success.”
“In order to successfully help students grow academically,’’ reiterated Schmeichel, “they need to be socially and emotionally in a place where they are ready to learn. We support each student to grow both academically and socially and emotionally so that ultimately they can become happy, successful citizens.”
According to Silver Strand Elementary School Counselor and Advisor to the NPFH club, Sophia Frost, the student reaction to NPFH was “enthusiastic.”
Frost reported that the opportunity to join the NPFH club at Silver Strand was offered to fourth and fifth grade students as a leadership opportunity lat year. Thirty-five students signed up with parent permission to join the club.
“They [students] embraced the concept of this club opportunity for them,” said Frost. “I think the fact that so many students wanted to sign up for it was such a clear sign of that. The projects really let them have a voice in what the project could be.”
“I wouldn’t say that we were teaching lessons so much as we were guiding students in developing projects to work on,” Frost continued. “The NPFH kind of blueprints require three annual projects that students complete. And that was really our focus -- guiding students in brainstorming and executing the project.”
Silver Strand Principal Jenny Moore described a Silver Strand NPFH activity called the Unity Tree, which entailed students coloring a leaf to represent themselves. “We decorated this wooden tree that we had at school with those leaves,” said Moore. “They love this idea of, ‘there’s my leaf, there’s my feather that’s part of a bigger whole,’ which is the concept of community.”
“So you can call it character education,” continued Moore, “or you can call it simply community living education. But outside of school, our citizens are learning how to navigate in a family, maybe how to navigate community resources, how to navigate being on a team. At school, there’s a lot of opportunities to learn about functioning within a group community that isn’t just your family. And I think that’s a critical part of being at school. And when you translate that up the line to middle school and high school, it looks a little more like, how are we helping you learn and work in a group that looks more like a project based environment, so that you are being prepared for college and career?”
Other initiatives for a more positive school climate have been set in motion at CUSD schools. The Positive School Climate Advisory Committee was introduced this year, and along with last year’s Coronado Unified School District Equity Committee, which includes students, parents, and staff.
“Both of those important stakeholder groups,” said Schmeichel, “will continue to give Coronado Unified guidance and advice on how we continue to do the work to make sure all students are safe and ready to learn on our campuses.”