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We can all recall getting picked on by the school bully when we were young. However, short of physical violence, we don’t always realize how damaging bullying can be when it doesn’t happen to us.

Living in Los Angeles is a particular challenge, as urban students often come from environments that are unsafe, even violent. It is essential for schools to be able to create a sense of safety and model a nonviolent way of navigating the world. The LA Fund realizes that safe and welcoming environments are a requisite for truly learning.

In April 2012, the LA Fund for Public Education saw an opportunity to show students of the Los Angeles Unified School District how hurtful bullying can be.  The LA Fund brought 7,000 LAUSD students to the Nokia Theatre for a special screening of the documentary, “Bully.”  The screening was followed by a discussion with Facing History and Ourselves to encourage students to change from being “bystanders” that allowing bullying to happen, to being friends, witnesses, and agents of change.

The LA Fund has partnered again with Facing History and Ourselves to fund an age-appropriate, anti-bully curriculum for LAUSD middle schools.  In the classroom, students learn about prejudice and discrimination in history. They learn to make comparisons to the racially, ethnically, and religiously diverse communities they live in and learn to accept and appreciate this diversity.  Participating seventh grade Language Arts classes will explore themes of conformity, obedience, prejudice, and justice, using materials such as Ji-Li Jiang’s novel Red Scarf Girl, Lois Lowry’s novel The Giver, and The Diary of Anne Frank.

Students must be reassured that their schools are safe havens and that they can turn to their teachers for support and consolation when they are victims of bullying.  Students and teachers must work together to mitigate the effects of bullying, thus creating a safe environment where learning can thrive.

Brief Bio: Melissa Montalvo is an intern at the LA Fund for Public Education, working closely with the anti-bully initiative.  She is a senior at the University of Southern California, where she is a Global Scholar, a Renaissance Scholar, and a member of the National French Honors Society.  She studies International Relations, French, and Business Law and has a passion for education policy.