River Cities

Miami Springs to become ‘Community of Respect’

    The City of Miami Springs is on its way to becoming a “Community of Respect,” which is a title that is earned and designated by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

    Miami Springs will follow in the footsteps of the City of Miami Beach and the Village of Pinecrest. Both have been designated “Community of Respect” in recent years.

    Earning the title will be no easy feat for Miami Springs. It will require a city-wide collaborative effort.

    Miami Springs resident Kim Werner is on the Miami Springs Education Advisory Board. She’s a trainer in the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program and Workplace Bullying Prevention Program, but most importantly she’s a mother. Werner has a passion, a purpose, and is committed to the cause. She’s inspiring others in the community to take action.

    “A big reason I pursued this for our community and for our schools is because it works and because it is supported by Miami-Dade County Public Schools,” Werner said. “That's important. We must have full and enthusiastic support from our school district and our community's regional leadership. I am happy to say that we do.

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    “Our city manager, Ron Gorland, our mayor, Zavier Garcia, and our city council, particularly Jaime Petralanda, have all been 100 percent behind my efforts in procuring funds for this community-wide bullying prevention effort. Miami Springs is a perfect place for this because our efforts cannot stop at the doors of schools. Our efforts must be community-wide.”

    Werner requested funding from Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa, and Sosa responded almost immediately. Exciting news came recently when the ADL confirmed receipt of Sosa’s funds of $1,200 to train Miami Springs Elementary School as a “No Place for Hate” school.

    “Commissioner Sosa responded to me within 10 minutes,” said Werner. “That’s all it took, her ‘yes’ and now we have funding through the ADL to train all of our public schools and our charter school.  That’s $6,000 of funding and all due to Chairwoman Sosa opening the door.”

    The ADL will, through the Rosenfeld grant, fund Springview Elementary School, Miami Springs Middle School, Miami Springs Senior High School and AIE Charter School to also become “No Place for Hate” schools, thereby allowing the City of Miami Springs to become a “Community of Respect.”

    So what does this mean for Miami Springs schools? What will schools have to do to earn the title “No Place for Hate” school?

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    School principals will schedule a “World of Difference” training early in the school year. Each school will provide students with at least three bullying prevention/respect-building activities and each school will be trained by the ADL. The ADL recognizes that each school’s population is different, so there are no set activities required. Each school will choose a specific training. A few examples we might see at our local schools are the following:

    • Becoming an Ally: An interactive program for elementary, middle and high school students, and teachers, which provide practical opportunities to address name-calling and bullying.

    • CyberAlly Program: A cyberbullying prevention program to help middle or high school students better understand the problem of cyberbullying and how to respond when they experience it or see it happen to others.

    • Trickery, Trolling & Threats; Understanding and Addressing Cyberbullying: Increases teachers’ awareness about the unique features and impact of cyberbullying; provides strategies for teachers to respond effectively and fosters an increased culture of e-safety.

    • General Anti-Bias & Diversity Programs: For teachers or students, this individualized program can address issues of stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination for 5th– to 12th-grade school communities.

    After schools complete their training, ideally, the City of Miami Springs would host a community event in the spring of 2015 at the Rebeca Sosa Theater. Schools will have the opportunity to showcase their students with anti-bullying, respect-building-themed performances.

    “There’s no question that preventing bullying, in my opinion, is key to children’s academic success. Children simply cannot learn if they do not feel safe,” said Werner. “Although there has been much rhetoric around the issue of bullying, there’s been little, if any, progress towards ending it. Policies focus on documentation of bullying events. That’s ineffective.  We must, instead of putting our efforts into putting out the ‘fires’ of bullying, put our efforts into preventing the fires from starting at all. Our schools becoming “No Place for Hate” schools and our community becoming an ADL ‘Community of Respect’ is a great start.”

    To learn more about how you can make a difference and get involved, contact Werner at www.apiecefullworld.com.

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