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Florence Township School District to take part in nationwide program that promotes equality among students and staff

Florence Township Memorial High School. Photo by Thomas Wiedmann

The Florence Township School District is taking an initiative to ensure equality for students.

At an Aug. 27 Florence Township School District Board of Education meeting, district officials announced that Florence Township Memorial High School and Riverfront Middle School have joined a “No Place for Hate” pilot program, which will go into effect this fall.

The Florence schools will be partnering with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) through a two-year impact study, this school year. Officials said the focus of the pilot program will include the impact that “No Place for Hate” has on a school climate; its potential lead to positive change in student behavior; and additional resources that ADL can provide to support schools’ “No Place for Hate” efforts.

Following the announcement of the district’s involvement in this program, Superintendent of Florence Township Schools Donna Ambrosius announced that she and district members looked forward to this initiative. Ambrosius explained that involvement in programs that aim to promote acceptance and unification in the schools can have a positive impact on students.

“Our focus is to make certain to take proactive measures to promote inclusive school environments and a sense of community and pride,” Ambrosius explained. “We are excited about this opportunity as we look to enhance our school culture and create an environment where all students are welcomed.”

In 1913, the ADL was founded on Jewish values that inform how people work, operate and the changes that individuals seek in the world. The organization has also grown through the implementation of programs with an intent to stymie targets of discrimination and threats, and promote equality among society.

According to the ADL’s website, the organization said it continuously “develops new programs, policies and skills to expose and combat whatever holds us back. We are focused on what brings us closer to this ideal.”

The website reads that the initiative is a school climate improvement outline that provides PreK–12 schools with an organized framework for combating bias, bullying and hatred with an aim to lead to long-term solutions for creating and maintaining a positive, equal learning environment.

Along with the encouragement of students to become involved in the program, the organization also states that it aims to “empower” faculty, administration and family members, as well as to take a stand against bias and bullying by incorporating new and existing programs.

With its acceptance into the program, officials said that the Florence schools will join more than 1,600 educational institutions involved in the self-directed program. To be designated as a “No Place for Hate” school, the organization’s professionals said that a school must complete the following: Needs assessment; Formation of a “No Place for Hate” committee; Signing of the “Resolution of Respect”; Institute anti-bias or bullying prevention training program; Design and implement three school-wide anti-bias or bullying prevention activities.

Upon completion of the required program components, the organization’s officials said that schools receive a “No Place for Hate” banner that can be displayed inside the school.

Florence school district officials said that as part of becoming involved in this program, one of its aims is to study proactive measures regarding harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB). HIB reports for schools are part of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act (ABR), which was legislation approved in 2011 and implemented by the New Jersey Department of Education.

Officials explained that the program is aimed to look at bullying on the “back end” to review what could have been done to create a more inclusive atmosphere for students.

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