An initiative at Laurel Hall School in North Hollywood was spearheaded by parents hoping to replace negative behavior with positive.
by Ellen Byron
Car magnets bearing the simple message, “Be Kind,” have sparked a lot of curiosity in the San Fernando Valley. They’re the latest brainchild of the Embrace Kindness Mission, a unique program created by parents and supported by the administration and faculty of North Hollywood’s Laurel Hall School, a private school affiliated with Emmanuel Lutheran Church.
The parents who founded the initiative say the program was inspired by “negative peer relationships” and bullying among students. Instead of just telling kids what not to do, they thought, why not inspire them to “be kind” to others, replacing negative behavior with positive?
When the parents shared their idea with school principal Kathleen Haworth, she instantly jumped on board. “As a principal, you get pitches for programs that will be the answer to all your social issues and bullying problems,” Haworth explains. “I feel this has a spiritual component that aligns itself with the philosophy of the school and the church, which has been very supportive.”
Embrace Kindness, launched in November 2012, outlines a plan for each school year. In September, students, parents and faculty are encouraged to sign a “Commit to Kindness” banner featuring the Mission’s distinctive logo. Teachers receive a laminated list that features monthly themes and vocabulary words for discussion. February’s theme is “love” and the vocabulary word is “generosity.” Students are encouraged to make posters, which are displayed throughout the school, promoting the theme.
The school’s Associated Student Body also helps promote the kindness message. And for a couple of days each school year, everyone on campus is encouraged to wear light blue to symbolize peace and remind everyone to be kind.
The Embrace Kindness Mission also incorporates appropriate national movements, such as Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Week, No Name-Calling Week, and Mix It Up at Lunch Day. Last year an anonymous parent donated enough “Be Kind” buttons to outfit the entire Laurel Hall community, and this year the school’s parent-teacher organizations paid for each family to receive a “Be Kind” car magnet to help spread message of kindness into the community.
While the mission is only in its second year, parents can already cite examples of how Embrace Kindness has influenced students. One mom says her 7-year-old daughter received a note on her desk during RAK week that read, “You are a nice girl and I love you.” Another says the kids in her son’s class – without any prompting – made an effort to include a shy new student and to sit with him at lunch. One teacher had her third grade class make posters that said, “Who’s Going to RAK You?” and it really caught the attention of the middle-school kids.
Haworth acknowledges that no anti-bullying program is foolproof and there’s still work to be done at Laurel Hall, but says the Embrace Kindness Mission has already had an impact on the school community. “I was Christmas shopping at Fashion Square and I must have seen about 10 ‘Be Kind’ car magnets,” she says. “I look at those magnets and think, Wow, I’m principal of the school that created this. I’m so proud to be a part of it.”
The Embrace Kindness Mission is growing into a movement as other schools contact Laurel Hall to find out how they can create a similar program. Some websites recommended by the Laurel Hall Embrace Kindness Mission are:
If you or your school would like additional information, contact Laurel Hall School at 818-763-5434.