NEW YORK - New York City Schools Chancellor Cathleen P. Black and City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn have announced plans to expand “Respect For All,” the Department of Education’s initiative to combat bullying and harassment and focus City public schools on the importance of promoting respect for diversity and fostering inclusive learning environments for students. The CityCouncil has been a generous supporter of the Department’s Respect For All initiative, including providing funding for the Department to conduct high school anti-bias curriculum workshops.
The new plans, which will go into effect in the 2011-2012 school year, call for schools’ existing Safety Committees to be expanded to better address bullying and bias-related behavior. Schools’ Respect For All liaisons will be required to sit on the committee, which will help strengthen school-wide coordination in developing anti-bullying programs and addressing complaints received from students.
In addition, the Department and the City Council will work together to develop standards for a special designation to identify and recognize schools with strong programs about diversity and anti-bullying. The Department will also expand best practice guidelines to include exemplary work in addressing harassment and bullying.
“We are expanding our Respect For All initiative to ensure that schools have the tools to address bullying and bias and promote an inclusive and respectful learning environment,” said Chancellor Black. “We also want to recognize schools that have gone above and beyond in teaching students about diversity and tolerance. I want to thank Speaker Quinn and everyone who has supported this important initiative.”
“‘Respect For All Week’ reminds us all that students learn best in a safe and positive environment,” said Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Walcott. “We have worked hard to help students embrace the differences in others and learn to enrich their understanding of the different cultures, religions and races in the City.”
“We have a responsibility to provide every student in New York City with a safe and inclusive learning environment,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “Teaching our students to embrace diversity is essential to preventing hate among future generations. This week is part of our long-term effort to make this subject matter part of our school culture.”
The Chancellor and Speaker were joined at the Brooklyn International High School in Downtown Brooklyn by City Council Education Committee Chairman Robert Jackson, Borough President Marty Markowitz, other elected officials, the United Federation of Teachers Director of Safety David Kazansky and Brooklyn International High School Principal Pamela Taranto, along with community partners who collaborated with the Department in developing the Respect For All initiative. At the Brooklyn International High School, many students wore white to reflect the blending of the 47 different countries they represent.
“Respect For All Week” is designed to focus each school’s attention on sustaining safe, supportive, and inclusive environments, providing an opportunity to highlight and build upon their existing efforts to promote respect for diversity and prevent bias-based harassment and bullying. To support schools in this important work, the Department’s Office of School and Youth Development has made many resources available to principals and school staff members—including sample lesson plans and connections to community organizations that offer programs and free curricular resources supporting the goals of Respect For All. The Department also provided principals with suggested activities to guide their “Respect For All Week” planning and will continue expanding the availability of such resources to support implementation of those programs throughout the school year.
This push to strengthen and encourage anti-bullying programs in schools across the City is part of an extensive joint outreach effort between the Department, City Council, UFT, Council of School Supervisors & Administrators, and community-based organizations. Joint letters from Chancellor Black, Speaker Quinn, UFT President Michael Mulgrew, CSA President Ernest A. Logan and City Council Education Chairman Robert Jackson were distributed to principals, teachers and parents across the City. City Council members played an active role in “Respect For All Week,” visiting schools in their Districts and participating in programs designed to prevent bias, bullying, and harassment. Many community-based organizations have reached out to schools to strengthen existing partnerships and develop new relationships that will have a positive impact lasting far beyond “Respect For All Week.”
“Every student and teacher is entitled to learn and work in an atmosphere that respects every race, faith and gender and the Respect For All program helps make sure that our schools offer the safe learning environment students deserve,” said UFT Director of Safety David Kazansky.
“CSA members applaud ‘Respect For All Week,’ an effort to help students and everyone in the school community behave respectfully towards one another,” said CSA First Vice President Randi Herman. “In an era when violence and bullying have escalated in cyberspace and in the real world, our school leaders embrace this campaign to say yes to kindness, generosity, civility and mutual understanding.”
“We must remember to respect life, respect ourselves and respect one another,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “All schools should be inclusive and welcoming environments where young people and families of all backgrounds and experiences feel safe and can thrive. When one person is attacked because of ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or gender, we are all attacked. Bravo to Chancellor Black, Speaker Quinn and the ‘Respect For All Week’ partners for helping our children see that as different as we are, the one thing we all want, need and deserve—is respect.”
“I had the pleasure of attending several Respect For All programs in local schools,” said City Council Education Committee Chairman Robert Jackson. “The events I saw all came back to a core premise - engaging students to turn inward to reflect on how a slight or teasing or bullying can hurt at the same time creating an external statement about that reflection through an activity such as song, dance, art, poetry, discussion or drama. The student work I saw demonstrated remarkable insight, humor and empathy. I believe Respect For All is an important part of our public school curriculum, providing students and staff with a unique opportunity to synthesize imagination and experience and a lesson that will last for life.”
During “Respect For All Week,” students citywide took part in a broad range of activities and special programs, such as school-wide presentations, performances and art projects, interactive classroom workshops, peer education, and student-led poster campaigns. Schools are sharing information about their Respect For All events on the DOE website athttp://schools.nyc.gov/Offices/OSYD/rfaweek2011.htm.
At Brooklyn International High School, students in ninth and 10th grade created posters and presentations on different religious traditions, 11th graders studied cells in science class and how their cells are closely related to one another by testing DNA, and 12th graders worked with community organizations, local politicians and the Office of School and Youth Development to investigate the causes and effects of bullying to raise awareness. Principal Taranto encourages students to engage in discussion of their backgrounds to foster a culture of respect. Her students, many of whom come from war-torn countries such as Iraq and Senegal, have worked with the Simon Wiesenthal Tolerance Center, the Anti-Defamation League, and have their own UNICEF Club and Gay Straight Alliance. For the past two years, victims of the bombings in Nagasaki and Hiroshima have visited the school and shared their experiences with the students.
“In our school, where the majority of our students are English language learners from around the world, we work hard to cultivate pride and respect for people of diverse backgrounds,” said Principal Taranto. “Students then extend that sense of pride and respect to the city and beyond.”
“Since the 2004-2005 school year, we have worked hard to promote diversity throughout our schools to ensure a safe learning environment,” said Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm. “We have been expanding the program ever since, teaching students the importance of embracing the differences in others.”
“I applaud the Chancellor’s firm commitment to promoting Respect For All as an essential foundation for life and learning in our schools,” said Tom Roderick, executive director of the Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility. “Morningside Center is honored to be a partner in this critical effort.”
“GLSEN salutes the Department of Education for its continued commitment to the Respect For All program,” said Executive Director Eliza Byard of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). “As a lead partner in the DOE’s initiative to create school climates where all students are respected and valued, we are proud to support the DOE by helping to create, lead and evaluate evidence-based trainings that provide New York City educators with professional development to realize the goals of the project.”
“ADL stands proudly as a key partner in the Respect For All program,” said Anti-Defamation league New York Regional Director Ron Meier. “For the last twenty years, ADL’s A World of Difference® Institute has been facilitating conversations with thousands of students, educators, families, and community leaders around the topics of anti-bias and bullying. Central to these conversations is the understanding of respect. That is why ADL New York is thrilled to participate in this year’s ‘Respect For All Week’ by sharing our Step Up! middle school assembly program that is designed to empower students who are bystanders to become allies.”
“‘Respect For All Week’ represents the vital and extraordinary work that schools are doing all year long to raise awareness, build community, and to make sure that every child in every school feels and is safe,” said Mark Weiss, education director of Operation Respect. “There is no more important work because it is the foundation for our achieving the academic success we want for every student. We are deeply proud to be part of this effort.”
“HEART is honored to participate in ‘Respect For All Week,’” said Meena Alagappan, executive director of HEART -- Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers. “We are conducting eight programs in the City this week focused on preventing bullying, resolving conflict, and promoting respect for diversity. Throughout the year HEART offers humane education lessons, at no cost to schools, to foster compassion and Respect For All living beings. We look forward to continuing to partner with Speaker Quinn’s office and the Department of Education to help ensure a safe and inclusive environment for all students.”
“Diversity is one of the things that makes New York City a great place to live, and nothing is more important than teaching our children to respect one another, not in spite of our differences, but because of them,” said Council Member Annabel Palma of the Bronx. “‘Respect For All Week’ is an important initiative designed to celebrate diversity, and I applaud Chancellor Black, Speaker Quinn, and all the ‘Respect For All Week’ partners for continuing to make this a priority in our City's schools.”
“As a former public school teacher who is openly gay, I think the Respect For All initiative is vitally important to protect our youth from bullying and intolerance in schools,” said New York City Council Member Daniel Dromm of Queens. “I’m especially pleased that Speaker Quinn has worked so closely with the Department of Education to ensure that our children are taught the great value in diversity and the rewards of a welcoming society. This program is essential to creating the type of safe learning environment that is necessary for them to succeed.”
“Students deserve to earn an education in a safe and harassment-free environment without feeling discriminated or persecuted,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens. “‘Respect For All Week’ promotes diversity and deters bullying in our schools through interactive and positive conversations and activities, helping raise awareness and even saving a life.”
“This targeted weeklong event was a good way to help students learn important skills in respect and working with others,” said Council Member Debi Rose of Staten Island. “The exercises encourage students to think more about the cultural environment in which they live and how they can share and celebrate their differences. The schools that participated this week in this initiative have demonstrated a real commitment to eradicating bias and bullying and creating an open pipeline in which students can report these unwanted behaviors.”