Ridgefield joins hundreds of U.S. high schools saying 'no' to hate

Lauren Kim with a No Place for Hate drawing

Lauren Kim with a No Place for Hate drawing

Contributed photo / Ridgefield High School

RIDGEFIELD — Ridgefield High School is working on becoming one of the state’s first No Place for Hate high schools, joining more than 1,600 schools nationwide.

No Place for Hate is a program under the Anti-Defamation League. It provides schools with an organizing framework for students, administrators, teachers and family members to develop long-term solutions to create and maintain an inclusive and equitable climate, according to the high school.

The student council’s executive board signed on to the program in the fall. Since its arrival, many students and high school community members have signed the NPFH pledge.

Assistant Principal Jennifer Phostole, who serves as the program’s coordinator in Ridgefield, said the initiative is gaining momentum, largely due to the students.

“They’re the student ambassadors, they’re the ones sharing with their peers and organizing the events,” she said. “I am supporting them, but I’m taking their lead. They really are doing such a great job.”

The students determine the activities, selecting ones that were important to them, Phostole said.

“The student body executive board is the student group who really spearheaded the pledge signing at the beginning of the year,” she said. “They made a video, they made stickers, they got students, family and faculty to sign the pledge.”

Those who sign the pledge look to understand people who are different than themselves, speak out against prejudice, help foster a prejudice-free school and acknowledge that one person can make a difference.

No Place for Hate schools receive their designation by building inclusive and safe communities. The goal is to foster respect and equity and create a school where all students can thrive. It also looks to empower students, faculty, the administration and family members to take a stand against bias and bullying by incorporating new and existing programs under one powerful message. It sends a clear, unified message that all students have a place where they belong.

Trumbull High School is also working to become a No Place for Hate school and Amity Regional School district has participated in some of the campaigns.

The RHS’s Social and Emotional Learning Committee has combined with No Place for Hate into one committee with teacher Eileen Stewart as the chair.

About 60 student ambassadors from all grade levels have created programs and acted as role models. The programs include 2021 Acts of Intentional Respect, a speaker series and the Humans of Ridgefield initiative, which gathers and posts written submissions about the six parts of the pledge.

Senior ambassador Riley Courtney initiated a conversation about the pitfalls of social media, inspired by the movie, “The Social Dilemma.”

“If every member of my generation sits back and does nothing to combat the issues we face, no positive change will occur,” he said. “We all must choose to act.”

Lauren Kim, another student, is working on a podcast about microaggressions and Kaylie Perhamus is working with the Unity Club on the 2021 Intentional Acts of Respect, Phostole said.

The Anti-Defamation League Names Day program will happen in March for 10th graders.

Visit the high school’s No Place for Hate website to find out more.