Baker students

Baker Elementary School students choose to be kind.

Each of Upper St. Clair’s six schools recently earned the designation as a “No Place for Hate” school from the Anti-Defamation League.

No Place for Hate is a national student-led program that creates a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students.

No Place For Hate

Implemented within Upper St. Clair School District beginning in the fall of 2019, the program helps to incorporate anti-bias and bullying prevention resources into the district’s existing programs in order to have one consistent message of inclusivity.

“Not only have all schools achieved this designation, but the work of the schools has been featured as an example of the model of No Place for Hate programming by the Anti-Defamation League,” Lauren Madia, assistant director of student support services, said.

To be named a No Place for Hate school, schools must establish a student-led committee of teachers, students and parents; create an opportunity for students to take the No Place for Hate Pledge; design and implement at least three programs to bring students together in discussion to combat bias and bullying; and provide anti-bias training to staff.

“The No Place for Hate Program, as a whole, has encouraged students to be more open, understanding and empathetic,” Dan O’Rourke, Boyce Middle School principal, said. “Our students really embraced the program, and it was so encouraging to see their creative ideas and genuine kindness to foster a more inclusive environment.”

At the high school, the initiative served as a unifying cause for several student clubs and groups with similar goals of inclusivity, empathy and acceptance.

“An important outcome of the program has been its impact on school unity. Each of our events were coordinated by No Place for Hate student committee members who then brought together classmates from various groups such as the Black Student Union, the Multicultural Club, and Student Council,” Timothy Wagner, high school principal, said. “While many groups are working toward common or similar ends each year, the nature of No Place for Hate’s school-wide programs unites us all in real and important ways.”

The positive impacts of No Place for Hate programs and messages have been evident throughout the district’s elementary schools, as well.

“I am most proud of the way this message resonated with our students at Streams, as evidenced by their ‘Stomp Out Hate’ works of art, their spontaneous positive messages of inclusivity that began to appear around our hallways and their efforts to be sensitive to and gain understanding of various cultures during classroom discussions,” Claire Miller, Streams Elementary principal, said. “I hope that they will retain these lessons and transfer this productive thinking into all aspects of their lives beyond the school walls.”

A key component of the initiative is the important role that students play in the planning and implementation of programs.

“It was powerful to have students come to me with ideas for programming, share paintings they made, pictures they designed, or posters that had No Place for Hate as a theme,” O’Rourke said. “In fact, we utilized one of our student’s designs to make T-shirts for Random Acts of Kindness Week.”

Ultimately, the success of the program rests with each individual school and its commitment of those involved.

“The No Place for Hate program provides the structure and resources necessary for schools like ours to plan and implement meaningful and impactful programming,” Dan Zelenski, high school assistant principal, said. “The success of the program truly depends on the collaboration and buy-in from all members of the school community. Having a 30-member No Place for Hate committee, representing multiple perspectives and walks of life, allowed our members to grow and learn from each other.”

To maintain the No Place for Hate designation, schools must continue to work with its students and school community to foster and promote a welcoming, inclusive environment for all.