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Waco ISD schools earn national recognition for campus culture initiative

WACO, TX (August 30, 2023)--Seventeen-year-old Billy Smith struggled with the assignment he was given through the No Place for Hate activity at Waco High School. Students were asked to write down names, things, and adjectives they had been called in in their lifetimes. Tears welled up in Smith’s eyes, stinging, as all the memories came flooding back. 


Waco High students chose “Labels Don’t Define Us” as an anti-bullying activity through the No Place for Hate curriculum, said School Counselor Shameka Massington. 


“The activity was designed to have students think about labels they have been called and/or labels they have given others. Through writing out a label they have been called or given, they can acknowledge with the class that this is not them,” Massington said. “The goal for the activity was for it to be impactful in furthering our commitment, as a campus, toward not supporting hate.”


The strips of paper containing the names and derogatory monikers students had experienced and ones they had given others were ultimately wadded together to form a ball that was taped together so no labels could escape. It was thrown away as a symbolic gesture that the labels were unacceptable, inaccurate, and undefining.


Waco High School was one of 20 Waco ISD campuses from among 25 this year that were designated as No Place for Hate schools. This number has grown by five campuses each year since 2021 when the school district made the program available. Each school formed a coalition of students and staff who developed and implemented at least three school-wide activities during the school year. Campuses must apply for the designation every year. 


Sheila Allen, counselor of G.L. WIley Opportunity Center, conducted a lesson with students and staff called the Cultural Iceberg. Students wrote on paper icebergs above the water line how their peers and teachers view them. Below the waterline, they listed traits to describe themselves that they believe no one else sees. 


“Students and staff benefited through No Place for Hate activities by continuing to communicate, teach, learn, and demonstrate mutual respect for one another,” Allen said. “Students voluntarily shared with the group what they had written on their icebergs and volunteered to have them posted in the hallways outside the classroom.”



Pg. 2-- Waco ISD schools earn national recognition for campus culture initiative


Schools may receive a No Place for Hate designation by implementing the following student engagement activities. 

  • Building inclusive and safe communities in which respect and equity are the goals, and where all students can thrive.
  • Empowering students, faculty, administration and family members to take a stand against bias and bullying by incorporating new and existing programs under one powerful message.
  • Sending a clear, unified message that all students are welcome in Waco ISD.


Assistant Superintendent for Student Services and Support Dr. Rachelle Warren said the No Place for Hate program appeals in part because of emphasis on student engagement without additional costs.


“The framework of No Place for Hate allows campuses to include campus-wide activities sponsored by other organizations as one of their steps toward the designation which enables a more sustainable culture to grow.,” Warren said.