VHS: Dodging bullying


Liliana Lara

At Ventura High school, teachers wear shirts and hang black and gold striped posters and signs in their classrooms that say, “Hate Free Zone?” However, do students know what the “Hate Free Zone” movement means?

The  “Hate Free Zone” movement is a human kindness campaign on campus. It involves many anti-bullying methods to teach individuals to be okay with the ways people are different. This campaign is taking an alternate route to attempt to modify the way an individual thinks of others.

“We don’t wanna teach tolerance, we want to teach acceptance and celebration of people’s differences,” states VHS Counselor Joan Dodge, the founder of the campaign.

Interview with Dodge by Liliana Lara

Dodge wishes that students will think, “Wherever I am there’s going to be a hate free zone around me and I’m going to demonstrate that by showing that I care in a direct way by engaging with people.”

According to Dodge, she originally started the Hate Free Zone about 10 or 11 years ago and reintroduced the program to VHS about five or six years ago.

Originally the sign was rainbow colors, however, some teachers were non compliant about putting the signs up in their classroom due to the correlation of the rainbow with the LGBTQ+ community. Due to this, Dodge asked former VHS teacher Dan Nelson to change the sign to be Ventura High School’s colors, black and gold.

Dodge had a thousand t-shirts made and sold them for $10 each. She also had posters, magnets and signs made.

One of the goals of the campaign is “When [students are] around us [administration,] wherever you are, there’s no hate here,” says Dodge.

An example Dodge gave of how one could go about making everyone on campus feel valued, is to say hello to someone who is by themselves or that perhaps is disabled.

The “Hate Free Zone” is part of a progression of humanizing kids and people in this very digitalized age and to bring the humanity back” Dodge said.