Guidance designs new anti-bullying curriculum

Juliana Moraes-Liu, Author

 Palo Alto High School counselor Selene Singares discusses bullying and harassment with seniors during an Advisory meeting on Tuesday. The lesson included two videos about bullying and an interactive presentation in which students answered questions via their smartphones. "The goal [of this lesson plan] is for all students at Paly to be happy, healthy and feel safe at school," assistant principal Kathleen Laurence said.
Palo Alto High School counselor Selene Singares discusses bullying and harassment with seniors during an Advisory meeting on Tuesday. The lesson included two videos about bullying and an interactive presentation in which students answered questions via their smartphones. “The goal [of this lesson plan] is for all students at Paly to be happy, healthy and feel safe at school,” assistant principal Kathleen Laurence said. Photo by: Juliana Moraes-Liu
The Palo Alto High School guidance department has been preparing for Not In Our Schools Week by organizing anti-bullying discussions with students in Advisory over the past weeks.

“We have had a lesson in advisory pertaining to Not In Our Schools week for at least the past decade,” assistant principal Kathleen Laurence said. “It [the lesson plan] has changed as new situations have come up in which intolerance and acceptance have been on display.”

The most recent incident that Laurence refers to is the Office of Civil Rights lawsuit about bullying in Palo Alto Unified School District.

“There was a bullying incident in one of the middle schools,” said assistant principal Kimberly Diorio. “The Office of Civil Rights said that the school district did not do enough to protect the student and make sure the student didn’t experience that [bullying].”

The new anti-bullying curriculum arose from an agreement between the two parties after the lawsuit ended in a settlement.

“One of the outcomes of that investigation said that we need to do a better job at educating our students about bullying and harassment,” Diorio said. “In order to meet that requirement, the guidance department developed this lesson plan.”

Three separate lesson plans were designed, according to Laurence. Freshman and sophomore lessons were conducted with their teacher advisers, while the junior and senior classes were invited during different Advisory periods to the Haymarket Theater, where administrators delivered an interactive presentation to students.

“We had students use their smartphones to answer some questions as an audience just to get a feel if people had ever felt this way,” Diorio said. “There was also a free response, and students could type answers and they would pop up on the screen.”

The administration hopes that this lesson plan will transcend the legal requirement and serve as a reminder for students about the harms of bullying.

“We would like students to stand up for each other when they see examples of harassment or bullying and if a student doesn’t feel comfortable,” Laurence said. “[We want students to] know where to go to get help in dealing with the situation.”

Students gather in the Haymarket Theater to listen to the anti-bullying presentation. According to assistant principal Kathleen Laurence, similar curriculums are being designed for future use at Paly. Photo by: Juliana Moraes-Liu
Students gather in the Haymarket Theater to listen to the anti-bullying presentation. According to assistant principal Kathleen Laurence, similar curriculums are being designed for future use at Paly.
Photo by: Juliana Moraes-Liu