Paladin Career and Technical High School is an alternative public charter high school, located in Blaine, Minnesota. The school is funded by the state and is not like most traditional public schools. For starters, it is not housed on a large campus but is located in a purposeful space in a mall called Northtown.
Paladin has a history of finding success for the students that haven’t had success in traditional school(s), don’t fit the “normal” teaching system, or have gotten lost along their way. Many of these students are homeless, are behind in credits, have a lack of parental involvement and little to no support system. In many cases, Paladin not only serves as their institution for learning, but often a place for refuge and hope. For example, the school focuses on building relationships first, an independent student-centered educational model, offers a kitchen area, a washer and dryer for students to use, and other services for students to feel safe and at home.
When our Shred Hate trainers arrived on the scene, you could feel the love at the school, but we still felt we could be of some help. Some of the teachers felt overworked and were looking for some new strategies and common language to use to disrupt student behaviors, particularly around bullying. A few physical altercations had taken place in the past and the school community felt that even one was too many. With all this being said, our trainers were still met with some resistance as some staff were not fully supportive of our bullying prevention program.
With the first round of coaching complete, we received some pushback and we questioned if our efforts would make an impact. To begin with, there was some confusion as to what defined bullying in the first place. The staff automatically lumped conflict and bullying into the same bucket without taking into consideration that bullying has to occur consistently and is about power dynamics, not just a conflict or incident. Secondly, staff were reluctant to host Solution Teams® that did not include the target. They questioned how this could remedy the problem without involving all parties involved. Paladin is a restorative practice school and uses circles to repair harm, but was there a way to incorporate the No Bully model and Solution Teams? Could we form some common language around bullying?
The Shred Hate team were “blown away” when they revisited the school later in the year. The social vision that was collaboratively created could be found all over the school. Posters and T-Shirts were made that all said: “Positive Vibes Make for Positive Lives.” A noticeable change had taken effect and even one of the teachers explained that “I’ve been at this school for nine years and have never felt the collaboration and cohesiveness that I have felt this year.”
What especially stood out was how the students had embraced this culture shift. A handful of older students had taken on the Shred Hate campaign and really made it their own. Now when you are at Paladin, and when a peer seems “off” the students “check” themselves and use the phrase “vibe out” to disrupt the behavior. This acts like a buddy-check system that creates social awareness to any negative vibes in a space. This phrase has spread like wildfire and ultimately gives students the tools and ownership they need to create a more positive culture. Christy Metcalf, our Shred Hate trainer, exclaimed that “This just goes to show how important it is for students to be part of the solution and not seen as the problem.”
The student group, who call themselves Vibe Control, took it even further and conducted their own training for teachers, students, and staff. Students held a school-wide assembly and talked about how to use the social vision and phrase in peer to peer interactions and in the classrooms with teachers. They wanted to ensure that the message remained positive and was not punitive in any way. Once the student group trained a staff member, they received a branded t-shirt with the social vision.
While Paladin may have started out with its challenges, it quickly has become one of our model schools. According to Paladin’s principle, “It’s common for small drama in high schools to lead to large disruptions without proper intervention. Since the students bought into our new social vision there has not been a large disruption or physical altercation since.” We sincerely give mad props to Paladin for their impressive efforts and are sending nothing but “good vibes” their way!