VIDEO: Sandy Run Middle School earns first No Place for Hate banner

Sandy Run Middle School counselors Kathi Babin, left, Kathy Gillespie and Melanie Zamichieli hold the No Placce for Hate banner the school received from Carly Chodosh, assistant project director of the Anti-Defamation League, during a presentation April 14. Gazette staff photo BOB RAINES

Sandy Run Middle School is now a No Place for Hate School.

The school received its first banner from the Anti-Defamation League in a ceremony held at Upper Dublin High School April 14.

No Place for Hate, a program run by the Anti-Defamation League, "enables schools and communities to challenge anti-Semitism, racism, hatred and bigotry in all forms," according to the ADL's website.

In order to achieve No Place for Hate status, a school must go through several steps. Schools must form a committee to plan anti-bias programming, adopt a Resolution of Respect and then hold at least three events promoting tolerance in a single year.

"We had to have a committee first and then decide on some activities that were schoolwide, not just gradewide," Sandy Run school counselor Melanie Zamichieli said.

The first activity was a No Place for Hate poster contest, in which students created designs promoting messages of acceptance and inclusion that were posted throughout the school.

Sandy Run followed this up by declaring November its No Place for Hate month.

"We decided to have a month of No Place for Hate, where our library was filled with books of accepting differences, whether they be cultural, religious," Zamichieli said.

During the month, students also participated in lessons about these topics, and every student read and discussed the same article.

"Every child did a reading activity called 'Rowing the Bus,' which depicted a kid in a bullying situation," Zamichieli said.

That same month, the school held a Mix-It-Up-At-Lunch Day, where students sat with people they usually do not interact with during lunch time to cause them to step outside their comfort zone.

Additionally, motivational speaker Mark Brown came to the school and spoke about bullying.

Zamichieli said Sandy Run decided to do the activities because it recognized bullying is an issue the school has to address.

"We deal with it every day, every single day, so we wanted to try to at least get the word out," she said, noting there is now a greater awareness of the problem among students. "It's an awareness that we really don't want people being treated unfairly."

After its year of anti-bias activities, the school received its first No Place for Hate Banner.

"I think [the students] have enjoyed all the different activities, and they'll be really excited when they walk into our building and they can see the No Place For Hate banner and it'll support all the activities they've done all year long," eighth-grade guidance counselor Kathi Babin said.

"It's a really special milestone for Sandy Run, for sure," said Carly Chodosh, assistant project director with the Anti-Defamation League, who presented the school with its banner. "For No Place for Hate, we're always looking for schools who want to fight the fight against bullying and really just face it head-on. For a school to even recognize that it's such an important problem and for a school to take on the initiative and take on these programs and take on the No Place for Hate framework is a huge success for us at the ADL."

By earning the banner, Sandy Run becomes the third No Place for Hate School in the Upper Dublin School District, joining Fort Washington and Thomas Fitzwater elementary schools.

"Hopefully we can get the rest of the district too," Chodosh said.

Thomas Celona can be reached at tcelona@montgomerynews.com, or you may comment on this story below.

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