2016-06-22 / Voice at the Shore

ADL recognizes Northfield Middle School as “No Place for Hate”

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER
Voice shore correspondent


Northfield school proudly shows off its “No Place for Hate” banner from the Anti-Defamation League. Pictured here are: (back row) Principal Glenn Robbins and David Ludwig, and (front row) students Olivia McGhee, Claire Gallagher, Kevin Foreman, Seena Ludwig, Jordan Schallus, Alexa Thompson, and Caroline Gitsas, and school guidance counselor Lisa Harvey. Northfield school proudly shows off its “No Place for Hate” banner from the Anti-Defamation League. Pictured here are: (back row) Principal Glenn Robbins and David Ludwig, and (front row) students Olivia McGhee, Claire Gallagher, Kevin Foreman, Seena Ludwig, Jordan Schallus, Alexa Thompson, and Caroline Gitsas, and school guidance counselor Lisa Harvey. Students and teachers clapped and cheered as The Northfield Community Middle School became the first and only school in Atlantic County to receive a “No Place for Hate” designation from the Anti- Defamation League at a schoolwide assembly on May 26.

Members of the local press snapped photos as the ADL’s Lisa Friedlander presented the school with its very own No Place for Hate Banner. “I hope you will display it proudly so that everyone knows they can expect to be treated with respect when they walk into this school.”

The ADL No Place for Hate (NPFH) program, which dovetails with New Jersey’s legally mandated anti-bullying programs, requires schools to complete three projects that help students learn respect and tolerance. Each student must also agree to adopt the NPFH “Resolution of Respect,” promising to “gain understanding of those who are different from me…speak out against prejudice and discrimination,” and protect and support others “who are targets of hate.” Regionally, the program has been implemented in nearly 230 schools and organizations in New Jersey, Delaware and Eastern Pennsylvania.

“This program has shown us to accept people for who they are and who they want to become, and to love ourselves as well,” said 8th grader Seena Ludwig, who led students in reciting the No Place for Hate Resolution of Respect during the assembly.

It was Seena’s father, David Ludwig, who approached Principal Glenn Robbins last summer about adopting the NPFH program. “Mr. Robbins is a forward thinker who has brought many new programs to Northfield,” said Ludwig, who has been active in ADL locally. “I knew he’d be receptive.”

The school adopted the program and expanded its safety committee—which implements state-mandated anti-bullying activities—so that it could also implement NPFH, which requires a planning committee that includes students and parents as well as faculty.

“One of the most important things that came out of the committee’s discussions was that saying “no bullying” all the time had made those words meaningless. The kids became deaf to those words,” said Ludwig, who served on the safety committee.

In contrast, the NPFH program provided a new approach to meeting anti-bullying requirements, by stressing “tolerance” and “acceptance,” said Northfield guidance counselor and safety committee chair Lisa Harvey. “What I like about

NPFH is that it’s a more positive message,” she added.

Kids appreciated this difference, said Seena Ludwig, one of two student ambassadors to the safety committee. “We didn’t have to sit through all of those bullying assemblies with people in suits telling you not to be mean or say mean things. No Place for Hate is about accepting people for who they are. It was also interactive and fun.”

Northfield’s first NPFH program was “Mix It Up at Lunch Day,” where kids sat at lunch with kids they might otherwise not talk to. Each table also got a set of “icebreaker questions,” written by students, said Harvey. During that lunch, Harvey also told students about the No Place for Hate program and special recess activities. “It was a fun way to kick off,” she said.

The school also held a “Week of Respect,” in which a NJ prosecutor spoke on cyber-bullying to 7th and 8th graders, who then made a video for younger students about the importance of respecting each other online, said Harvey. The school’s third NPFH project was an exhibit created by 7th graders showing how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. changed the world. The interactive exhibit included videos, posters, and a questionnaire.

But as ADL’s Friedlander said as she presented the school with its No Place for Hate banner, “No Place for Hate is more than just projects—it’s a day-to-day responsibility and way of being. It means saying hello to students you don’t know in school and standing up for others who are being bullied and put down.”

Friedlander challenged students and adults alike to take the principles of No Place for Hate with them wherever they go. The responsibility “doesn’t stop just because you leave the building,” said Friedlander. 

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