2014 Grants Challenge

Becoming An Ally: Stopping Bias and Bullying in Los Angeles Schools

ADL would like to bring its anti-bullying programs, Becoming An Ally, to 30 underserved schools across Los Angeles County.


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

ADL would like to bring its anti-bullying programs, Becoming An Ally, to 30 underserved schools across Los Angeles County.

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

Central LA

East LA

South LA

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

South Bay


What is your idea/project in more detail?

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL)’s Pacific Southwest Regional Office would like to bring its anti-bullying programs, Becoming An Ally, to 30 underserved schools across Los Angeles County. The programs will create a greater sense of safety at and on the way to school, reduce truancy rates and increase attendance. Through its award winning A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute, ADL will offer 30 schools the opportunity to train up to 40 staff on our best practices for preventing, recognizing, intervening and addressing bullying among students. Our extensive research indicates that bias and prejudice are behind much of the bullying that occurs. Our anti-bias lens addresses racism, homophobia, classism, religious bigotry and other forms of bias.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

ADL contracts with over two dozen facilitators to provide training to interested schools in the Los Angeles area. They have been trained to ensure top quality programming and fidelity to the program models. The facilitators are overseen by ADL’s full-time Project Director for its A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute who handles all coordination and logistics for educational programming in the region. The Project Director is assisted locally by an administrative assistant and supported more broadly by ADL’s national Education Division and its network of 28 regional offices across the United States. All facilitators must go through an extensive background and security check prior to being issued a contract to facilitate in ADL’s A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute. Facilitators must renew contracts on an annual basis. All Becoming An Ally programs are guided by two facilitators who model the importance of an anti-bias approach to preventing and addressing bullying.

Rigorously evaluated and based on top notch research and evidence, the Becoming An Ally program utilizes cutting edge, interactive learning activities. Each school goes through a detailed needs assessment and an agenda setting process with ADL’s A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute Project Director in the weeks leading up to their program. Following each day-long program, the Project Director will then produce evaluation reports, identify next steps, and engage in technical assistance with the school to continue its work towards a bias-free and non-violent learning environment.

Few schools are able to pay the full costs of the program. Initiatives like LA2050 and the foundations that support them are critical to making these programs available. ADL’s Pacific Southwest Regional Office has waiting lists for clients eager to access these programs but unable to pay for them. Funding from LA2050 would allow ADL to immediately begin implementing programs and addressing unmet needs at schools across Los Angeles County.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to LEARN today? In 2050?

Today, far too many students in Los Angeles are dropping out of school, skipping school, and engaging in anti-social activities because they are targeted in school by bullying, violence and bias-related behavior. According to 2011 data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 15 percent of Los Angeles students report that they have been bullied on school property while 29 percent report being in one or more physical fights in the last year. More than 12 percent report being the target of electronic and cyberbullying. Even worse, students in Los Angeles are significantly more likely to report a recent suicide attempt than students in other areas across the United States.

ADL’s Becoming An Ally equips students with the skills they need to be an ally to targets of bullying and positively shift social norms around bullying, harassment and other forms of aggression. As Los Angeles students then teach these values to their peers—and eventually their own children—long-term changes in norms will be sustained through 2050 and beyond. These anti-bullying programs will create safer and more welcoming school climates which result in students being more committed to and engaged with their schools—both as current students and after they graduate.

Anti-bias and anti-bullying education at all ages helps to reduce violence and community strife and promote safety. Bias- and bullying-free learning environments are crucial to good mental health for the County’s younger residents now and in the years ahead.

Whom will your project benefit?

ADL can train up to 1,200 educators and school staff at 30 trainings across the County over the next year. Assuming each teaches 100 students per year, those 1,200 school staff will then use the skills acquired through their training to positively impact the lives of more than 120,000 students each year. The Becoming An Ally program is tailored for elementary, middle and high school educators and staff. K-12 students will benefit from their educators being trained through the project. They in turn will shift social norms regionally related to bullying and pass those values onto people younger than them as well as future generations. The primary beneficiaries (1200 staff members) will help secondary beneficiaries (120,000 students) shift social norms and create safer places for many thousands of future students, the tertiary beneficiaries. Further, all of the County’s residents will benefit from safer schools and communities.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

At the national level, ADL has existing partnerships with the following organizations and initiatives to address bias and bullying: the Ad Council, the American Bar Association’s Anti-Bullying Initiative, Cartoon Network’s Stop Bullying, Speak Up initiative, Common Sense Media, Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, Cyberbullying Prevention Center, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the Great American NO BULL Challenge, the International Bullying Prevention Association, MTV’s A Thin Line and Look Different campaigns, Not In Our School, the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, Share My Lesson, Stand4Change, StopBullying.gov, and the Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools Program. Each of these organizations and initiatives have partnered with ADL to make the anti-bullying programs successful and bring a wide variety of perspectives and resources to augment ADL’s anti-bullying work. ADL’s office in Los Angeles is ready to engage these partnerships to ensure the success of our anti-bullying work in the region.

Education staff from ADL’s Pacific Southwest Regional Office also hold local positions on the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Commission on Human Relations, Diversity and Equity and the City Human Relations Commission’s Anti-Bullying Coalition. ADL also works closely with the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission and other regional partners to plan local conferences including the Cyber Crime Prevention Symposium. Through its work on coalitions, commissions and similar partnerships, ADL can draw expertise and resources from law enforcement, elected officials, school officials and other human relations experts. ADL’s local partners assist in identifying schools in need of anti-bullying training and disseminating crucial information across diverse networks.

How will your project impact the LA2050 LEARN metrics?

Suspension and expulsion rates (Dream Metric)

Truancy rates in elementary and middle school (Dream Metric)

Students perceived sense of safety at and on the way to school (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

Ample research has shown that when students do not feel safe at school, they are more likely to be truant. Skipping school dramatically increases students’ chances of suspensions and expulsions, and reduces their academic achievement. Bullying and bias-related aggressive behaviors make students feel unsafe at and on their way to school. The rise of cyberbullying has made students feel unsafe and vulnerable in their own homes. Bullying no longer stops at the schoolyard gates. Bullying behaviors peak in and around middle school. Anti-bullying programs reduce truancy rates at the elementary and middle school levels and increase students’ perceived sense of safety at school, on the way to school and at home. Students leave ADL’s anti-bullying programs better equipped to respond to bullying, to create positive school cultures and to feel safer.

ADL’s A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute programs are also informed by ADL’s Educational Equity Task Force which seeks to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and ensure students have equitable access to educational opportunities. As a comprehensive civil rights and human relations organization, ADL does not believe in zero tolerance policies or overly harsh disciplinary responses to bullying behaviors. These disciplinary actions disproportionately and negatively impact students of color, those with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students. ADL has already partnered with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) for programs addressing these important issues and would bring that expertise to bear to further reduce unnecessary suspensions and expulsions and help students get back to the business of learning. ADL believes in the value of non-exclusionary disciplinary frameworks including Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and similar, evidence-based approaches. The organization also knows the value of family and community education to augment what students learn in schools.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

ADL will rely on publicly available data on suspensions and expulsions from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and other large districts serving students in our metropolitan area. These same data will also provide insight into truancy rates among elementary and middle school students.

LAUSD issues the nationwide Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which includes several measures of student safety at school and on the way to school as well as other measures related to bullying and cyberbullying. CDC and LAUSD issue the YRBS biannually, so this will be a good measure to track medium-term and long-term changes in school climate and safety as we approach 2050. The data from the YRBS will also provide valuable information about students’ experiences with bullying and harassment broken out by race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and other important identifying characteristics.

In addition to truancy, suspension and expulsion data, and the YRBS measures on bullying and student safety, ADL will also collect program evaluation data from all school sites provided funding through the LA2050 initiative. These data will allow for a cumulative picture of the impact as well as allow for mid-year changes if patterns emerge that require attention. ADL is committed to using both external and internal measures of success when evaluating its programming.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

ADL approaches anti-bullying efforts with an anti-bias lens because we know that the majority of bullying and other aggressive behaviors are rooted in forms of bias like racism, homophobia, religious bigotry, classism and others. ADL’s anti-bias educational programs from its A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute form much of the foundation for its anti-bullying programs including Becoming An Ally.

ADL knows that the teachers and staff who spend every day with their students in their unique school communities have a tremendous amount of wisdom to share. Facilitators come prepared with interactive, engaging and cutting edge activities that draw the collective wisdom out of the room while avoiding a lecture style. This ensures that staff as adult learners make meaningful contributions. Drawing from the experience and collective wisdom in each school community allows for tailored programs to sustainably transform school climates for the better. ADL facilitators are considered experts on bias and bullying, but they are there to facilitate knowledge sharing among peers as much as they are there to impart critical information and skills.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

ADL’s A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® contracts with over two dozen facilitators who can implement Becoming An Ally at 30 schools across Los Angeles should the project be funded. ADL already coordinates Becoming An Ally and other anti-bias and anti-bullying programs across the region and has the existing staff, technological and coordination infrastructure to begin programming (and transforming Los Angeles) immediately. ADL and its partners have waiting lists of schools that would like programs but are unable to pay for them. No time will be required to engage in strategic planning, program build up or outreach.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

California public schools have substantial standardized testing requirements which can make scheduling trainings at specific times of year (e.g. the late spring) difficult. ADL will conduct the bulk of the school staff training programs in the fall, winter and just before students return to school in the late summer to avoid scheduling conflicts.

Another challenge is the demand. There is far more need for these programs than can be addressed with $100,000. ADL will prioritize the schools in most need of these vital trainings to create a list of 30 schools from ADL’s existing waiting list.

What resources does your project need?

Money (financial capital)

Publicity/awareness (social capital)