Not In Our Town


I have to admit that one of the most inspiring things about doing this blog is connecting with other people who are on their own personal crusade to stop bullying. I have met and talked to so many others who are moved to take action in whatever way they can to help solve the bullying issue.

Unfortunately, sometimes it takes an issue local to a person to start their cause. Such is the case with the woman who started the blog titled “Things like this don’t happen in South Hadley” that can be found at http://collaborationconversation.wordpress.com/. She is a mother of 3 and social worker who lives in South Hadley, MA, where recent bullying incidents and the suicide of Phoebe Prince have made this town the poster child for bad bullying behavior.

Through a series of back and forth exchanges, she shared a story I had not heard before, but is an inspiration of the power of community to battle bullying behavior. While the behavior is not based in school, but in the community, I believe the same philosophy can battle school bullying. The story, which took place in Billings, MT, is about the Ku Klux Klan (KKK)  infiltration of a town and the community’s unification to stop their bullying behavior in the early nineties. The story is so powerful that PBS has made a documentary about it.

According to the PBS website, the story is summarized on their site:

In 1993, hate activities in Billings reached a crescendo. KKK fliers were distributed, the Jewish cemetery was desecrated, the home of a Native American family was painted with swastikas, and a brick was thrown through the window of a six-year-old boy who displayed a Menorah for Hanukkah.

Rather than resigning itself to the growing climate of hate, the community took a stand. The police chief urged citizens to respond before the violence escalated any further. Religious groups from every denomination sponsored marches and candlelight vigils. The local labor council passed a resolution against racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia. Members of the local Painters Union pitched in to paint over racist graffiti. The local newspaper printed full-page Menorahs that were subsequently displayed in nearly 10,000 homes and businesses. The community made an unmistakable declaration: “Not in Our Town.” Since then, no serious acts of hate violence have been reported in Billings.

This documentary was created by a group called “The Working Group”, who promotes working to build more inclusive communities. They have a great website you can check out at: http://www.niot.org/front.

This story shows the direct power of community and bystander groups getting involved to stop bullies. There are many stories like this, such as The Pink Shirt story that has become a yearly event and is growing more every year. By sharing these stories and showing the power of the community to stop the bullying, we can help teach others how to react and help.

3 thoughts on “Not In Our Town

  1. Great blog, and kudos to you for standing up to bullying so publicly. That’s what it takes — people being willing to say and do something when someone else is being bullied. By standing together, we can stamp out prejudice and hate violence in our schools and communities. And thanks for directing people to Not In Our Town at http://www.niot.org, the Working Group project that has provided anti-hate resources for 15 years, since we made the PBS documentary about Billings. We also have a Facebook page where people can share ideas and best practices at http://www.facebook.com/niot.

  2. So glad to see that you are passing on the Billings, MT story! Active bystanders may not be the only answer to this issue, but they sure do seem to be a great start. Hope you will look up the work of Ervin Staub if you don’t already know about him.

    Thank you also for the Colombine remembrance piece. That story has haunted me since it happened and I still think we have much to learn from it. And I keep praying that we will stop repeating it.

    Thanks for you continued good work.

  3. You told me this story this past weekend. Since I had my sunglasses on, you couldn’t tell that I had tears in my eyes. I love hearing how people stand up for the bullying. We need to teach people, especially children, how to do that.

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