• Daniel Greenbaum

"No Place For Hate" Comes to GHS, Substituting "Names Day"

Updated: Mar 25

Cover photo credit: Kieran McGuire

Bullying and intolerance are often in the spotlight, from the White House to the schoolyard, and sometimes they seem out of control. This is the idea behind various anti-bullying programs developed by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and brought to high schools nationwide, including Greenwich High School. ADL's program "Names Can Really Hurt Us," affectionately known at GHS as "Names Day," was canceled this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It would have been its 21st year at GHS.

Instead, a different ADL program is being launched. The school’s administration feels this one is more compatible with the school’s current hybrid model. Keeping alive the tradition of "Names," "No Place For Hate" (NPFH) is also focused on building a community of inclusivity, respect and equity, hoping to increase appreciation for acceptance and understanding.

“Names” was an all-day, one-day event for the ninth grade focused on empowering students to know, understand and identify biases and bullying. The event addressed what it means to be a target, perpetrator, bystander and ally and then take action. Similarly, NPFH is a school-wide program of different activities taking place throughout the year, which will specifically focus on teaching about racism, antisemitism and bullying.

NPFH started with signing a pledge against bullying during the month of January, hoping to create a "no-hate" environment in school. In a normal year, the team would place a big banner in the student center, and everyone would sign the pledge in school. The remaining activities are still to be determined.

"The ADL programs are super beneficial to the student body. They are full of learning and sharing, with lots of emotions. We create inclusive spaces throughout the programming so that everyone feels comfortable coming together and learning about each other. For me, it was the first time I was able to see people with such diverse backgrounds share similar stories and emotions," said Halla Clausi, a senior and member of the “Names” Steering Committee.

"Names Day" is usually months in the making as upperclassman volunteers work behind the scenes as part of the "Names Team" to help plan the day, as well as to facilitate and lead in all the breakout sessions. In past years, these student leaders participated in the program as freshmen themselves and completed about 10 hours of training annually prior to the event. Due to the changes this year, the students and advisors have met virtually to plan the day.

Clausi also said, "Working now with the ADL and student leaders, we are going to be signing a school-wide petition and hope to have a virtual take on traditional "Names Day." For many kids, it might even be more comfortable to share and hear stories while being in the comfort of their own home.”

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly every single school-age student will experience some kind of negative social situation/interaction with approximately one out of five high schoolers reporting that they have been bullied during the school year. Sustained bullying or attending school in a perceived hostile environment can lead to feelings of helplessness and/or depression and even suicide.

"With the added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, now more than ever, it's crucial that students feel welcome and comfortable in their school," said Lee Bowbeer, faculty adviser for "Names" and NPFH. "We are excited to try something this year that reaches a school-wide student audience."

From sharing personal experiences to team-building exercises, NPFH is designed to have long-lasting effects. The ninth-grade class will get to know each other better, hopefully becoming more empathetic and empowered to make GHS a more comfortable place for all. For older students, they learn to support others and feel more collaborative with their peers.

"We appreciate the wonderful ADL programs because they send a clear, unified message to all students and staff that we value creating a school culture that is inclusive and welcoming," said Bowbeer.

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