Is Benjamin Really a “No Place for Hate”?


Winni Cox

Positive notes made by students adorn Mr. Crisafi’s classroom door after his brother-in-law passed away earlier this year.

Spreading kindness is better than spreading negativity. This is an obvious statement, right? Well, for some students, it’s not so obvious. At the Benjamin Middle School, kindness is a serious focus. Many advisories have encouraged kindness by making upbeat post-it-notes for others, creating wonderful posters about the 12 Benjamin character traits, and participating in community service projects. The Middle School also encourages kindness through choosing students to be the Leader of the Week every Monday in assembly, implementing curriculum and visits from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and talking about creating a culture of kindness in classrooms and assemblies.

However, despite our having been designated as a “No Place for Hate” school for the past five years by the ADL, there is still some unkind behavior taking place. Students are saying mean things to one another, ignoring certain individuals, and spreading rumors about other students. Hurtful words are spoken, exclusion is occurring, and talking behind other students’ backs always seems to be happening.  Some students have decided to pass notes around in class about others, go out of their way to tell other students how they are better than him or her, and pass judgment or give dirty looks.

Winni Cox
Students need to embrace and embody the 12 Benjamin character traits in order to make the Middle School a more positive place.

How do I know this? Because I see it first-hand and I hear it from other students. However, in trying to obtain student accounts about such behavior they have witnessed or experienced, no students wanted to go on record. So the question is, is the Benjamin Middle School really a “No Place For Hate?”

According to the ADL’s website, the organization “ continues to fight all forms of hate” and it’s “ultimate goal is a world in which no group or individual suffers from bias, discrimination or hate.”

The ADL visits the Middle School each year to teach students how to be kind to each other and to focus on positivity. The training shows students what to do in situations where bullying occurs, and the program encourages students to be an ally and an upstander, not a bully or a bystander.  

The training is needed, but after the same message for so many years, maybe the students are tuning it out. A school is a place for learning, not spreading negativity. Just saying hello to someone, starting a conversation, or even offering to help them pick up their stuff if they dropped it are easy ways to spread kindness. Sadly, some students think that it is funny or cool to be rude to their peers. The administration is trying to counter this as much as it can.

“It’s all about developing good habits,” said Head of Middle School Mr. Charles Hagy. “[I am doing] everything I possibly can [to prevent bullying]. [We] re-wrote our [student] handbook. The teachers have also been trained on how to develop the most positive, inclusive environment possible here at School. [The teachers are] trained by the ADL, creating a positive and inclusive environment in each classroom and on campus. [They are] working to make every student feel as if he/she belongs.  [They are] communicating with students and their parents to create constructive plans to address issues.” These issues include hate speech, exclusion, and bullying.

Still, no school is perfect, and rude, shameful, and disrespectful behavior still exists within parts of the middle school student body. So maybe it’s the students’ who need to turn around the culture.

TBS has made great strides in trying to make sure every student feels safe and accepted on campus. However, now the students really need to own that initiative and treat others with the respect they deserve. The culture of the Middle School needs to change in order for the nastiness and bullying to stop. If students undertake a random act of kindness every day, there would be more positivity and a lot less negativity. When that happens, then Benjamin can really call itself a “No Place for Hate” school.