Students sat on the playground at Grand View Elementary School, where they took part in a recent anti-bullying assembly. It’s a joint effort with the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate program. The speaker explained to the student that a bystander is anyone who witnesses bullying happening either in person or online.
“It is kind of embarrassing to stand up and to tell a teacher because it’s like, ‘you’re a snitch.’ That shouldn’t be a bad thing. You’re defending yourself and you should be proud of that, that you stood up,” said fifth grader Valeria Garcia.
She said she’s been bullied about everything from her appearance to the way she draws.
“It makes you feel really down about yourself, and it makes you feel like you’re not good enough,” Garcia said.
Grand View is one of four schools in the Manhattan Beach Unified School District officially designated as a No Place for Hate schools by the ADL, but later this year, the district is poised to be first in Southern California to earn that title at all of its schools. Principal Tara Grings has been with the school for the past two years.
“They’re student ambassadors. They’re in fourth and fifth grade and what we do is we train them as ambassadors to then go back and do walking assemblies with the younger kids to also train the younger kids how to have some conflict management and conflict resolution,” Grings said.
Ashley McCarthy is part of the school’s PTA and helped bring the program to grand view. She meets with the student ambassadors once a month and said they become an extra set of eyes and ears to watch out for hateful bullying.
“I think it’s so cool when the kids begin to talk about what it means to them to be inclusive and what it means to be “No Place for Hate.” What they come up with really restores your faith in humanity,” McCarthy said.
To keep their designation, the students have to plan three initiatives per year and also run a pledge signing at the start of the school year.
“It gives a message to all those kids that they are actually hurting other people. They’re not just making themselves feel good,” said fifth grader Scout Barker, who is also McCarthy’s daughter.
“It’s not like the world revolves just around you. It revolves around everybody,” Barker said.
As part of the No Place for Hate program, the school began tracking bullying related to discrimination. Grings said in the short time the program has been in place, she’s proud of what the school has accomplished.
“Last year, we had several instances of hate, students being singled out because of their race because their preference was to play with barbies if they were boys and with some conflict management and reteaching, that has been completely eliminated. I’ve had zero students in my office this year,” she said.
In 2022, there were nine instances of hate graffiti, mostly anti-Semitic, across the district, including two elementary schools. Grings said students see color as young as 2 and kids have questions about things that don’t look like them. She urges parents to have these tough conversations with their children and so does McCarthy before it’s too late.
“If you don’t have those conversations, what students are left to fill in are stereotypes. They’re left to fill in TikTok videos and what they see on Instagram,” Grings said.
“You may wind up with a student who’s involved in an incident that gets widely publicized and their response is going to be ‘but I didn’t understand’ and that’s not their failure. That’s us as the parents. That’s our failure for not helping them to understand,” McCarthy said.
To date, more than 1,800 schools nationwide have received the No Place for Hate designation from the ADL.
Let “Inside the Issues” know your thoughts and watch Monday through Friday at 8 and 11 p.m. on Spectrum News 1.