Students study genocide to prevent bullying

World Without Genocide hosts a summer program that inspires students to stand up against hate.

Sally Hunter

Last fall, Rachel Beecroft found herself awake at midnight with an idea to teach high school students about bullying and genocide.

This idea came to Beecroft, a 2010 University of Minnesota graduate, hours after she heard Ellen Kennedy, founder of the nonprofit World Without Genocide speak at an event about empowering community from the ground up.

Beecroft, an education outreach associate at World Without Genocide, emailed Kennedy her idea to spread the message to high schools. There, she said, students can start battling hate from an early age and in a more prevalent form: bullying.

âÄúUltimately, it all comes down to hate,âÄù she said. âÄúSomeoneâÄôs not letting someone else be who they are.âÄù

After months of planning, World Without Genocide is ready to host a three-day program called Child Soldiers and Bullying  Aug. 16 to 18, which will teach high school students to stand up against hate at a local and global level. ItâÄôs the organizationâÄôs first annual summer institute.

So far, about 15 high school students are signed up, Beecroft said.

These students will gather at the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul for about 12 hours each day to learn about African genocide and child soldiers. TheyâÄôll also learn about bullying in their own American communities and how to stand up against hate.

âÄúI hope it will create âÄòupstandersâÄô in our communities,âÄù Beecroft said, using a term the organization uses for those who stand up to bullies âÄî the opposite of bystanders.

The students will hear from survivors of the Cambodian and Liberian genocides as well as the Holocaust. They will also listen to human rights activists, watch films, learn leadership skills and act out plays.

On the third day, students will present what theyâÄôve learned to parents and to local government officials, Beecroft said.

âÄúWeâÄôre hoping that these students will become leaders in their schools for advancing human rights,âÄù Kennedy said. Students will learn to create an environment in their own schools where people feel safe and are treated equally, she said.

âÄúIn both bullying and genocide, you have an âÄòus-versus-themâÄô kind of relationship,âÄù said Greg Stanton, founder of Genocide Watch, an international alliance to prevent and stop genocide.

That type of relationship is the first of eight stages in genocide, which can be paralleled with stages of bullying, Stanton said.

Traits like dehumanization, group organization, polarization and preparation occur both in genocide and in bullying.

The final stage of genocide is denial, Stanton said, which starts from day one and continues for years after.

For example, mothers will deny that their daughters have bullied other girls, just as there are deniers of the Holocaust or the genocide in Rwanda, he said.

âÄúThinking back [to high school], I saw bullying and didnâÄôt do anything,âÄù Beecroft said. âÄúItâÄôs inspired me to inspire other people to stand up when I didnâÄôt.âÄùY SALLY HUNTER
Last fall, Rachel Beecroft found herself awake at midnight with an idea to teach high school students about bullying and genocide.
This idea came to Beecroft, a 2010 University of Minnesota graduate, hours after she heard Ellen Kennedy, founder of the nonprofit World Without Genocide speak at an event about empowering community from the ground up.
Beecroft, an education outreach associate at World Without Genocide, emailed Kennedy her idea to spread the message to high schools. There, she said, students can start battling hate from an early age and in a more prevalent form: bullying.
âÄúUltimately, it all comes down to hate,âÄù she said. âÄúSomeoneâÄôs not letting someone else be who they are.âÄù
After months of planning, World Without Genocide is ready to host a three-day program called Child Soldiers and Bullying  Aug. 16 to 18, which will teach high school students to stand up against hate at a local and global level. ItâÄôs the organizationâÄôs first annual summer institute.
So far, about 15 high school students are signed up, Beecroft said.
These students will gather at the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul for about 12 hours each day to learn about African genocide and child soldiers. TheyâÄôll also learn about bullying in their own American communities and how to stand up against hate.
âÄúI hope it will create âÄòupstandersâÄô in our communities,âÄù Beecroft said, using a term the organization uses for those who stand up to bullies âÄî the opposite of bystanders.
The students will hear from survivors of the Cambodian and Liberian genocides as well as the Holocaust. They will also listen to human rights activists, watch films, learn leadership skills and act out plays. 
On the third day, students will present what theyâÄôve learned to parents and to local government officials, Beecroft said.
âÄúWeâÄôre hoping that these students will become leaders in their schools for advancing human rights,âÄù Kennedy said. Students will learn to create an environment in their own schools where people feel safe and are treated equally, she said.
âÄúIn both bullying and genocide, you have an âÄòus-versus-themâÄô kind of relationship,âÄù said Greg Stanton, founder of Genocide Watch, an international alliance to prevent and stop genocide.
That type of relationship is the first of eight stages in genocide, which can be paralleled with stages of bullying, Stanton said.
Traits like dehumanization, group organization, polarization and preparation occur both in genocide and in bullying.
The final stage of genocide is denial, Stanton said, which starts from day one and continues for years after.
For example, mothers will deny that their daughters have bullied other girls, just as there are deniers of the Holocaust or the genocide in Rwanda, he said. 
âÄúThinking back [to high school], I saw bullying and didnâÄôt do anything,âÄù Beecroft said. âÄúItâÄôs inspired me to inspire other people to stand up when I didnâÄôt.âÄù