Welcoming SchoolsPost by Rohmteen Mokhtari, Former HRC Coordinator, Family Project

For many elementary students, recess can be a highlight of the school day. A chance to run and play after hours of sitting still behind a desk.
But it can also be an isolating experience for students who feel left out.
At Roundtown Elementary School in York, PA one second grader is doing his part to make sure all students are included in the fun.
With his family considering a temporary move to Germany, Christian began researching German schools. That’s when he noticed that one German school had a “buddy bench” for students who felt lonely or excluded during recess.
With this idea in mind he took action to support the students at his school who he noticed were being left out recess. He went to his principal and got a “buddy bench” at his school.
Now when students feel alone or excluded they can go to the bench where they’ll be invited by other students to talk or play.
This “buddy bench” allows more students to share in the joys of recess.
But just as importantly, it helps create a school culture of caring and inclusion. It challenges students to support their fellow classmates and empowers them to be a part of the solution.
As Christian puts it, “we show we care about others when we ask others to play.”
Christian and the “buddy bench” teach us a lot about what it takes to make schools more safe and welcoming for all students.
Christian exemplifies the power of upstanders willing to take action when they see students being excluded or teased.
In order to become upstanders, students need to know there are many ways to constructively support a classmate who is being bullied or teased. Options include talking to an adult when they see a student being teased, speaking up in the moment, supporting a student who has been bullied and causing a distraction in the moment that takes the attention away from a student who is being targeted.
Welcoming School’s new film, What Can We Do? Bias, Bullying and Bystanders shows how two schools are using Welcoming Schools materials to help students be upstanders. Learn more about the film and find many more resources to stop name-calling and bullying.

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