SVHS launches Tolerance Campaign
Sonoma High sophomore Connor Magnani helps Vice Principal Ryan hang the first of the Teen Truth posters that will go up around the school.
Sonoma Valley High School continues to promote a safe collaborative learning environment for all of our students. As part of our continuing, proactive steps to address issues that affect many secondary schools and students across the country, SVHS is launching its own “Year of Tolerance.”
This is a collaborative effort between the high school’s administrative team, the district office, staff and student leadership and Tammy Rivara (student leadership teacher) as well as various campus clubs. The Year-of-Tolerance action plan includes a variety of ongoing, student-centered tolerance and awareness activities, guest presenters and “teachable” moments in the form of classroom-based lessons addressing intolerance and bullying.
The following article highlights some of the activities Sonoma Valley High School will be pursuing throughout the year, as well as some measures we have already taken.
We are very fortunate to call Sonoma home. As a graduate of Sonoma Valley High School myself, I am very proud of our district and our site’s commitment to establishing and maintaining a safe learning environment for ALL of our students and their families.
– Andrew Ryan, SVHS vice principal
Swastikas scrawled in textbooks. “White Power” symbols carved into tables. Homophobic and racial slurs. Blatant acts of prejudice being committed.
Hate crimes have become a national issue, at Sonoma Valley High School (SVHS) as well as at schools across the country. To combat such activities, SVHS is launching a Tolerance Campaign to create a school culture of safety and open-mindedness, rather than one of hate and bullying.
One of the first steps the administration has taken is to schedule a multi-media presentation from an organization called Teen Truth. Teen Truth uses a combination of films and guest speakers to communicate to students both the devastating effects of bullying as well as how to fight harassment and violence on campus.
Vice Principal Andrew Ryan explained, “Teen Truth is giving their presentation on Sept. 20 for the entire school. We’re also having Teen Truth Plus on Oct. 17 and 18, which will allow for selected students to help identify the major problems on campus and form an attack plan. There will likely be 25 to 40 students selected from all across the SVHS culture.”
As for funding the $5,000 program, Ryan explains, “This was funded by ASB (Associated Student Body) and the district office. The tolerance theme is a district-wide initiative.”
SVHS is also investigating the possibility of implementing Challenge Day. The Gay-Straight Alliance, as well as the current Slate, have long had an interest in bringing Challenge Day back to the school, and with the new culture of tolerance, it may finally become a reality.
Plans for the Tolerance Campaign, however, extend past the short-term. “There won’t be a change if we just have a jazzy speaker or a couple of activities. There needs to be constant reinforcement,” Ryan stated. “In order for this to be successful, we need the participation of students as well as the staff. Everyone is being asked to do more for a safe, welcoming, educational environment.”
In addition to the listed events, leadership advisor Tammy Rivara is in the process of establishing a Google Voice hotline, which would allow students to anonymously phone in any incidents of bullying, violence, vandalism and other concerns. Not only will messages be kept as an audio file, but they will be automatically transcribed and sent to Truancy Officer Linda Patterson’s computer.
“I really appreciate all Ms. Rivara has done,” remarked Ryan. “We would not be where we are (in the Tolerance Campaign) without her help.”
The Tolerance Campaign will continue to evolve throughout the year, inciting change and growth within the SVHS population.
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Jamie Ballard is an Index-Tribune intern and a SVHS senior.