Many opportunities to mobilize parents and caregivers and channel their concerns for their children’s safety may arise throughout the school year. Recognizing such opportunities and acting on them can help us to generate energy and commitment. Parents and caregivers are more likely to involve themselves in initiatives that derive from interests and concerns they have identified.
An individual parent or caregiver may be moved to take action as a result of a specific incident of bullying or inequity. Such an impetus is most constructive when the parent or caregiver can broaden their focus from their own child’s wellbeing to that of the whole school community. Ideally, with information, tools, guidance and support, parents and caregivers can be equipped to work for the interest of the larger community.
Incidents that are resolved beneficially and constructively can become part of a school’s common history. Success stories can be influential agents of change as long as anonymity can be preserved. Using the power of stories, the images and metaphors they generate, the approaches and skills they illustrate, can provide adults with useful tools and concepts. This also serves to further develop and establish a safe and inclusive school culture by building a community vision of change.
School events can be opportunities to emphasize and reinforce positive messages related to safety and inclusion. Parent and caregiver activities that include a component for their children are most likely to draw larger numbers. School events can be designed in such a way that they honour and value all students, thus serving to engage the participation of more parents and guardians. Award nights, school plays and other competitive or performance-oriented events may highlight the achievements of only a few students while many are missed.
Events can be planned so that they weave together entertainment, socializing and fun with positive messages around equity, inclusion and bullying prevention. For example:
- In a high school setting, when planning a musical performance or event, songs or music with an equity theme can be given priority.
- At the elementary level, when organizing a family film night, films that raise issues around respecting differences, standing up for others’ rights, or being an ally, can be selected. A discussion can follow the film viewing.
A school located in a well-to-do neighbourhood organized a dinner event. They invited all families to attend. When families arrived, a small number of families received a full dinner, another family got a partial dinner, and other families received only a bowl of rice. The goal is to experientially allow families to experience the feeling of not having enough to eat while others do.
Messages related to equity, inclusion and bullying prevention can be raised whenever school community members have gathered. We can take advantage of the opportunity to review and remind families about the school’s code of conduct. We can seek and take advantage of opportunities to transmit such messages throughout the year. For example, schools can:
- reserve a corner of the school newsletter for regular articles, news and information about equity, inclusion and bullying prevention;
- include a reference to safe and inclusive schools in the School Improvement Plan.
Every school communication, initiative, event or interaction provides an opportunity to reinforce the values and vision of a safe and inclusive school culture.