NNHS Working Group adds anti-bias lessons in anti-bullying curriculum revision

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Sophia Zhou

Based on feedback from students and staff, the March and September homeroom anti-bullying curriculum is being revised by the NNHS Working Group to incorporate anti-bias lessons.
According to senior Maya Gomberg, a second year member of the group, the Working Group improved the anti-bullying curriculum to make it more accessible and applicable last year. This year it will work to change it into a more anti-bias focused curriculum.
The group held its first meeting of the year Wednesday, Oct. 18 in room 103, during which it discussed its plan for the year. The group focuses on issues of diversity and anti-bias around the school.
“This was our intro meeting for the year, so we talked about our short term goal for the year, which is to create anti-bias lessons for the March homeroom session,” said English teacher Michele Leong, a member of the committee. “We also looked at the overall timeline, and the structure, and the overall sequence of lessons that we are going to create.”
The reason for the switch, according to Principal Henry Turner, was that students and faculty both felt that anti-bias is a necessary and relevant topic to learn about. “I think that among the faculty and what we’ve heard among students is that there’s real sense that bias is something we do experience at North quite a bit,” he said.
Leong added, “students and staff have given feedback that anti-bullying felt more moot for them and that their was a desire to look more specifically at issues of anti-bias.”
The curriculum will be made up of different lessons for each grade with each lesson dealing with issues of anti-bias and diversity, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, and religion.
Turner noted that in terms of the actual lessons, “students will still notice some similarities, like we’re still going to follow the anti-bullying skills that we want students to learn, and I think also incorporate some anti-bias skills where they overlap as well,” said Turner. “So some of the lessons will be different, but some of the learning outcomes may be similar.”
To first time group member senior Thacher Andreae, this is a step in the right direction. “I think the more our school understands bias and how it affects oneself and others, the more bullying can be combatted,” he said. “Bias can sometimes be a cause for bullying, because preconceived notions about certain people can result in negative or different treatment, so I think knowing more about what bias is and the biases we have can help us think more about how we’re treating those around us.”
However, teaching anti-bias may prove to be more difficult than teaching something tangible like anti-bullying.
Sophomore Christina Zhao, who is not a member of the group, prefers the anti-bullying curriculum. “I think that teaching an anti-bias curriculum would be pretty challenging because you can’t stop people from judging or thinking differently of others,” said. “However, you can encourage no bullying and for people to not act on their biased thoughts.”
According to English department head Melissa Dilworth, each department will also work to update their in-class lessons to reflect the changes once the new homeroom lessons are created.
“Of course we’re trying to be thoughtful. We want to think about what will work best in the scope of ninth through twelfth grade,” she said. “Maybe something is better taught freshman year rather than waiting until senior year.”
Due to the importance and the complexity of issues regarding diversity and anti-bias, Leong encouraged all those who were interested in helping out to reach out to her.
Even if students are unable to go to the meetings on Wednesdays, “they can contact me and we can maybe connect them with people who have come on Wednesdays,” she said. “That way they can help work on lesson creating at different times.”
Both Andreae and Gomberg stressed the beneficial impact the group has. Gomberg said, “I chose to continue being a part of the working group for the same reasons I joined it in the first place—to be able to positively impact our school.”
Andreae added, “I was immediately drawn in by the opportunity to help our school further recognize diversity and anti-bias because they are both things I think are very important to me and for others to understand.”
The Working Group is a student and staff committee that started last year in response to a confederate flag incident during which students drove around Tiger Drive waving a confederate flag out the window.