Over the years of talking and doing surveys with students, I hear over and over again that students are most likely to go to peers before coming to adults with concerns. So often we establish programs that are geared at having students come to adults. This year, we decided to try something different. We have started what we call Safe School Allies. Rather than trying to reprogram students to come to adults first, we are embracing the power that students already have to support each other. Since we opened 3 years ago, it has been a top priority for us that our students feel safe here. We’re not always sure how we’re doing with that.
Enter, the Safe School Allies. To form the ally team, students in each classroom used a private nomination form to identify three people whom they see as trustworthy people – people that would “have their back”. From this group, students were selected that represented the various demographics of our school population. We want everyone’s voice to be heard. The purpose of the allies is two-fold: to train and support students to support each other when feeling mistreated, and use student voice to affect change.
In our conversations with allies, students identified that safety is not simply about not feeling bullied, it’s about feeling like you belong. When we truly feel that we belong, we fit, we matter, then we begin to truly feel safe. We have been meeting with the allies to hear from them what the ideal school would be, how we are doing, and what we can do together to get closer to that ideal. Yes, having the confidence and skills to stand up to mistreatment is important, but we believe it’s not enough. We look forward to spending the year working with the Safe School Allies, and hearing more from them about how we can grow a school where everyone feels safe to learn, and safe to thrive!
Cyndy Ganz – School Counsellor