We're still plugging away at the Tolerance Club. A couple of months ago, someone had the idea to sponsor movies every month or so after school and invite the whole student body. Our first presentation was Bullied, a short documentary about Jamie Nabozny, a gay teen who was so severely harassed in school with so little support from the administration that he sued the school district and won. We advertised, served popcorn and drinks, and offered an hour of community service credit for anyone who came to the library on a Friday afternoon. To our amazement, 75 kids showed up and heard the message that intolerance is wrong. They even applauded when the verdict was read.
Yesterday it was another documentary short, this one on kids with Tourette's Syndrome. In addition to the film, I Have Tourette's, but Tourette's Doesn't Have Me, we also had a guest speaker-- a young woman who was diagnosed with the neurological disorder at the age of four, but who went on to graduate from UVa and is currently in law school. Her presentation and Q&A with the 75 students who also attended this event were compelling and very moving in their honesty. At one point she told the kids that as hard as it was to cope with her condition and the social consequences, she was glad in a way to have had Tourette's, because everyone has to deal with something and her struggle made her much more empathetic.
I know enough about adolescent development to understand that having difficulty accepting differences is actually an appropriate stage for kids to work through. I don't expect miracles, but it feels good to initiate some real conversations the likes of which rarely happen in middle school.