Getting to the Heart of Safety


• Join us in our national initiative, "It's cool to be kind." Make signs and hang this slogan up in the halls. Rely on the creativity of the adolescents themselves, to decide how to spread this sentiment. Have students sponsor a vintage clothing fundraiser. Students can donate, exchange or purchase antique or unusual apparel. This will dilute the strict fashion uniform that divides student populations into preps, jocks, nerds, goths, etc. Introduce a Friendship Club dedicated to making any and all students feel welcome.

• Empower students. Tell them outright that they -- one student at a time -- can change their school's atmosphere. Each individual must decide whether to swallow cruel remarks, reward students for excluding rather and reaching out, or look the other way when they witness peer aggression or sexual harassment. Students, not teachers or parents or principals, decide who is popular and what values merit that popularity.

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Without the triumvirate of students, parents, and school personnel, this climate of cruelty, this root cause of Littleton and all the rest, will continue to flourish. Mean-spiritedness is fertile ground for the seeds of violence. If we want our schools to be safe, we have to press straight to the heart of safety. We have to address and purify the soul of our schools. Until it's cool to be kind, no one will really be safe and no school will be a safe haven.

Charlene C. Giannetti and Margaret Sagarese are the coauthors of the new Parenting 911: How Parents Can Safeguard and Rescue 10-to-15-Year-Olds.

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