Since 2017, the ESPN X Games has come to town with a message: Shred Hate. If you watched the X Games last weekend, you likely saw that phrase on every athlete bib, on signage throughout the venue and on televised PSAs with athletes like Chloe Kim.
Basalt middle and high school students also heard that message loud and clear through the Shred Hate bullying prevention program and its partner organization No Bully. Together these entities brought positive X Games fervor into the schools while also promoting systemic and lasting change in school culture toward bullying.
To date, the Shred Hate initiative has trained nearly 800 teachers in 20 Colorado schools to build an inclusive school culture, interrupt incidents of bullying, and implement an empathy-oriented path forward for both bully and victim.
“ESPN is proud to team up with No Bully on Shred Hate, a program aimed to eliminate bullying by encouraging kids to choose kindness,” said Kevin Martinez, vice-president of ESPN Corporate Citizenship. “No Bully’s approach to bullying prevention is changing the game, and there’s no better platform than the X Games and its passionate action sports stars to help spread the Shred Hate message.”
According to NoBully.org, each year nationwide 30 percent of students are the target of bullying. Bullying occurs when a student or group of students repeatedly hurt or humiliate another student, and science has shown that the repercussions of bullying can have life-long impacts on both bully and victim.
Cyberbullying has added a complex new dimension, but the act of bullying itself hasn't changed much in the 25 years that BMS Principal Jennifer Ellsperman has been in education.
“There have always been students who are troubled or lacking in skills and using inappropriate methods to deal with those feelings,” she says.
What’s increasingly changed is how bullying is handled in schools, and ultimately that’s what encouraged Basalt administrators to apply to become Shred Hate/No Bully schools. The evidence-based No Bully system has been proven to remedy 90 percent of all bullying cases in schools where it’s implemented.
“BMS and BHS have been focused on addressing our students’ happiness, social acceptance, and mental health,” says BHS Assistant Principal Megan Baiardo. “In the process of looking at these very important topics, we learned that both schools had an occurrence of bullying that we weren't willing to tolerate.”
The Shred Hate/No Bully curriculum employs elements of restorative justice, an empathy-based system for repairing harm that the entire school district is moving towards incorporating.
The curriculum sets up solution-oriented teams and systems that involve students as well as adults and encourages schools to create a powerful social vision that invests students in compassionate and inclusive behavior.
On Jan. 22, X Games host Hannah Rad visited both schools for a rousing assembly that ultimately asked students to commit to the power of kindness. The schools then sent more than 100 students to the X Games, where they took in the competitions and heard from X Games athletes Gus Kenworthy, Maddie Mastro and Mike Schultz about their experiences with bullying and how kids can join the Shred Hate movement.
While BMS has already begun the No Bully training and solution team process, BHS used the X Games as its kick-off event.
“Our desire was to create a high hype and fun event around a message of standing up for positive things as a school and to not tolerate bullying,” Baiardo says. “The work will be moving forward as a specific restorative practice at both schools in the years to come.”
The Shred Hate/No Bully initiative is only part of Basalt’s K-12 vision toward a kinder school culture.
According to Ellsperman, administrators and counselors from all three schools met last year to create a coherent social/emotional agenda to provide students with similar concepts, language and skills training throughout the public school experience.
The elementary and middle schools use Second Step, a curriculum that focuses on building positive behavior and social skills, while the middle and high schools now employ No Bully, which is more of a schoolwide framework.
“The No Bully program is responsive and restorative and makes me feel more empowered as a principal," says Ellsperman. “When a report comes in, I know exactly what to do and more kids will be protected because of that.”
As the No Bully curriculum rolls out this year, Ellsperman hopes that the “Shred Hate, Choose Kindness” message will stay with students.
“When the X Games says that to be kind is cool and that hate isn’t cool, it gets kids’ attention,” she says. “I hope students realize that our schools notice, care about and have systems in place to deal with bullying and that students have a way to report it and be an upstander as well.”
Both schools will offer No Bully parent education trainings later this spring. In the meantime, the schools encourage students and parents to reach out with bullying concerns or to submit information through Safe2Tell (safe2tell.org), an anonymous state-wide means to report concerns directly to schools.