The need for supportive and safe school environments
TAB addresses the need for supportive, safe school environments which lead to scholastic achievement and student retention.
MA Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) data on risks youth face show the need for TAB:
- in the urban Springfield region, the school suspension rate is nearly 5 times the state rate, and the dropout rate is 8 times higher;
- in the rural towns served by Mahar and Pioneer, the suspension rate is 3 times the state rate, and the dropout rate is 4 times higher.
Discipline rates in all schools are significantly higher per capita for minority youth, special education, and LGBT youth. Of LGBT youth:
- nearly 1/3 drop out of school
- they are 7 times more likely to be threatened or injured with a weapon in school
- they are 4 times as likely to attempt suicide
The need for reducing harmdoing in communities
Since November of 2016, there has been a substantial increase in intimidation, harassment, violence, and other harm doing throughout the US. The need for action is demonstrated by response to a hotline established by the MA Attorney General: According to a National Public Radio report 2/18/17,
“Comprehensive statistics are hard to come by, but officials and watch groups say hate-motivated incidents remain higher than usual more than three months after Election Day. Following reports of harassment and intimidation of racial, ethnic and religious minorities, women, LGBTQ individuals and immigrants since Election Day, Attorney General Maura Healey today announced that her office has launched a new hotline for Massachusetts residents to report such incidents. ‘In Massachusetts, we will protect people’s rights, fight discrimination and keep people safe,’ said AG Healey. ‘There are reports from around the country following the election that people have been targeted and subjected to conduct that imperils safety and civil rights. Today, I am establishing a hotline for residents to report bias-motivated threats, harassment, and violence. Such conduct has no place in Massachusetts.’
The calls flooded in right away. Officials say they've gotten some 250 substantive reports since the election, half of those in November alone. A racist and threatening video was circulated at a local school; an immigrant, in the country illegally, was physically assaulted by a co-worker; two Jewish community centers received bomb threats; and a mosque received a letter calling for ethnic cleansing.”
Dan Ottenheimer, whose father is a Holocaust survivor, said he felt compelled to act. “My family has experienced firsthand how people can be persecuted, how it can get out of control, if other people just stand by and silently let it occur.”
Ottenheimer contacted Quabbin Mediation, which has been running its 6-hour Training Active Bystanders program for 10 years in schools, and successfully convinced the organization to create a 2-hour version of TAB. The response has been tremendous and unexpected. In March, 2017 alone, the TAB training was carried out for 200 people sponsored by public libraries, churches, temples, community coalitions, the Islamic Center of Boston, for immigrants and activists in NH, for the Lexington (MA) Human Rights Committee. And in April and May, 60 people who participated in the 2-hour workshop took day-long trainings in facilitating those workshops. A May 31, 2017 Boston Globe article about the program resulted in on-going demand for the program, including at businesses, multi-cultural and social justice organizations, at colleges and universities. The Islamic Center has requested several more workshops and another training for trainers.
All of this demand has been a result of word of mouth with no outreach having been done.