During the 2016-2017 school year, the Public Schools of Brookline and Brookline High School partnered with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to bring their World of Difference Peer Training Program to BHS. This year, we are extending this powerful partnership into the middle grades at four elementary schools. Working with the ADL is one way that the PSB supports students in building the leadership skills needed to be upstanders in our schools, our community, and our society. The ADL describes this program as follows:
The World of Difference Peer Training Program prepares young people to use the positive power of peer influence to motivate other students to reflect upon stereotypes and assumptions and take action against prejudice and bigotry in their schools and communities. Young people learn how to assume leadership roles in efforts to create respectful and inclusive schools and communities. Peer trainers learn how to effectively respond when they hear racial slurs, name-calling, and put downs in the hallways, lunchrooms and classrooms of their schools, and develop the skills to lead interactive discussions and workshops for their peers and younger students.
The BHS student team is led by Associate Dean and Special Education teacher Brendan Kobus and Social Studies teacher and BHS Advisory teacher leader Jen Martin. This team of BHS peer leaders now serves to both support and strengthen the already caring environment that exists at BHS. Currently, the ADL Peer Trainers at BHS have visited elementary schools to help with the recruitment of Peer Trainers at the K-8 schools. They have also met as a group to plan workshops that will train larger groups of BHS students in how to facilitate group anti-bias sessions. For example, the Peer Trainers are currently meeting to discuss how they can respond, as a group, to the recent incidents at BHS involving racist videos.
As the team of BHS peer leaders were trained last year, it became clear that expanding this work to the K-8 schools would serve to strengthen individual schools and the broader Brookline community. As a result, this year we are embarking on the first phase of the K-8 work by developing teams of peer leaders at Heath, Lawrence, Lincoln and Pierce schools. Over the course of four days, a group of 15 middle grades students from each of these schools will be trained as peer leaders in the World of Difference Program. The program will be facilitated by ADL trainers and led by teachers from the participating schools. We plan on extending this opportunity to Baker, Devotion, Driscoll and Runkle schools next year.
In his message to families at the participating schools about the ADL partnership, Superintendent Bott thanked Brendan Kobus, Jen Martin and Headmaster Anthony Meyer for their leadership on this work at BHS. The superintendent also thanked Kellee Terkla, Zoe Kern, Corey Clifford and Kate Sullivan, and with their school principals, for bringing this invaluable partnership to our K-8 schools. Brookline’s partnership with the ADL will help students develop the skills and empathy that are the cornerstones of the PSB's core values.