A trio of upcoming events will reinforce the good work taking place to make our schools not only physically safe, but also emotionally safe places for our students.

This Friday (March 11), educators and therapists will gather at the Calciano Youth Symposium to address bullying and gangs. Next Wednesday (March 16), local physician/parents will lead a discussion about teen sexuality, part of the Santa Cruz High Parent Education Series. The following week (March 19) the Diversity Center hosts a Queer Youth Conference for area students and their allies.  Today, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama released this video address about bullying and launched the Stop Bullying Now Facebook page.

The common thread tying these events together is shared value in our community to ensure all of our schools are safe places – physically and emotionally –  for our children. Helping to advise schools about creating this climate is the Safe Schools Project (SSP) of Santa Cruz County.  Formed as a result of the California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act of 2000 (AB 537), the SSP links area schools with local and statewide organizations to ensure that every student, parent and staff member in our schools supports each individual’s right to be safe on our campuses, free from bullying or harassment.  The SSP is a coalition with representation from students, teachers, administrators, elected officials and community organizations from all parts of Santa Cruz County. The Safe Schools Project is led by Ron Indra, a Harbor High School teacher (and Eddy Award recipient) who also works with the Queer Youth Task Force. Indra will be a featured speaker at the Calciano Youth Symposium.

The real test of these efforts is the experience for students in our schools.  By working collaboratively, the adults in our schools are raising awareness, providing resources and continuously seeking to ensure that every student is safe from harassment and bullying. It is encouraging to see that youth not only have a seat at the table with the adult advisors, but that they are also working within their schools, peer to peer, to make it better.