Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance […]
Martin Luther King Jr.
Many forms of discrimination originate in a lack of understanding. Mount Eden High School Principal Gregory Fobbs and Athletic Director Gary Duran understand this concept and take to heart the philosophy that education goes beyond the academic curriculum.
This was illustrated when they discovered that two of their students were bullying a peer who had special needs by humiliating him on social media. While the school and its staff found their acts intolerable, they approached the situation by deciding to deal with the heart of the matter versus the behavior.
Believing that the education system is meant to do more than punish kids for their mistakes, they chose to teach the students about the heart of compassion. Instead of suspending or expelling them, they decided to have both kids volunteer in E-Soccer, an all-volunteer based inclusive soccer program in Hayward that teaches special needs and typical kids together how to play soccer and develop their social and motor skills.
Teenagers, like many of us, make regrettable mistakes. Having these two high school students volunteer in E-Soccer for the rest of the year will help them understand what kids with special needs and their parents experience.
While both students came in “dragging their feet”, after being taught by experienced coaches how to work one-on-one with some of the children, you could see their body language change and their faces begin to light up with smiles. This program is not only helping them to develop compassion but also confidence because of the good they are doing.
Bullying, like many other forms of discrimination, goes far beyond what meets the eye. Deciding to teach students compassion instead of just punishing behavior will help them to not only change but also carry this change forward – actually equipping them to stand up for those with special needs instead of bullying them.