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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Confronting Prejudice and Bias

November 15th was the "Not In Our Schools" event - a collaboration of three high schools - for which I was the project coordinator. Over 300 students, teachers, and parents came to the Los Altos High School Theater to see a screening of the documentary, "Not In Our Town..." and participate in a community conversation facilitated by Milton Reynolds of "Facing History and Ourselves." The documentary, produced by my old friend, Patrice O'Neill, portrays communities in Northern California where a hate crime occurred and where the community found a creative, empowering way to respond. It provided a springboard for a conversation about the kinds of prejudices we encounter every day at school and even inside ourselves.

There were numerous poignant comments made during the community conversation that I will not forget. One young woman stood and in a voice wavering with pained emotion, told us of her friend, a bisexual, Muslim boy, who endured endless teasing and some bullying at school. One day, he jumped in front of the CalTrain and killed himself. Though she was his friend, she blamed herself for not having intervened and stood up to those who belittled him.

I think that in standing up and sharing her painful experience, this brave young woman motivated many to do something we haven't dared to before. How many of us have witnessed slurs and prejudice that injure people we know, but said nothing? It's not easy, or comfortable to be an "upstander." But that small act of courage can make a world of difference.

(The event included a great burrito dinner catered by students from Los Altos High and a mountain of desserts baked by students at Saint Francis high.....also a student art exhibit from students at Mountain View High and a short performance by "Camp Everytown" kids.)

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