News from the Palo Alto Unified School District:
NIOS started 12 years ago at Gunn, and has spread across all secondary schools in Palo Alto Unified School District.
Although messages of acceptance, empathy, awareness, and identity safety are emphasized throughout the year with staff and students, NIOS week deepens this work with structured class activities and lessons, invitational assemblies and participatory lunch activities.
“Gunn has developed NIOS to be very effective and their efforts have grown far beyond the weekly NIOS campaign. The kind of acceptance and inclusion we focus on has become part of the daily fabric of their school," shared Not In Our Town National NIOS Director Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas.
Each secondary school in PAUSD holds a NIOS week at varying times during the spring semester.
Jordan Middle School and Gunn High School will be holding their NIOS weeks during the week of April 7.
Over the past 12 years at Gunn, a committed group of 10 to 12 teachers, two student executive council diversity commissioners and student clubs, such as Gay-Straight Alliance and Reach Out Care and Know (ROCK), have built a multi-faceted program including optional lesson plans that fit into any subject area; inspirational speakers, movies, and short plays; short dialogue prompts teachers can use to structure class discussions; and interactive campus art installations.
Participatory lunch activities such as this year’s “Take a Seat and Make a Friend” Ball Pit at Gunn are also a mainstay of the week.
Jordan’s activities also include grade level assemblies, taking a “Jaguars Have Your Pack” pledge, and creating statement bracelets emphasizing the goals of identity safety, empathy and acceptance.
Gunn Alumni Jenna Melville stated, “Not In Our Schools week not only introduced me to the inequalities teens face, but I learned how to rise above the hateful comments said by others. Not In Our Schools week celebrates differences and teaches acceptance, which is really important to learn in high school. People gain empathy for someone who's different, and every year it opened my eyes to see how accepting people at Gunn were.“