Embrace Civility

Reduce student hurtful behavior and increase helpful behavior by reinforcing positive social norms that the majority of students do not admire those who are hurtful and admire those who are kind and compassionate and step in to help.

Increase the resilience of students involved in hurtful incidents using Trauma Informed Care practices.

Increase the ability of students to independently resolve hurtful incidents when using social media or face-to-face by ensuring they gain the skills to effectively respond as a witness, the one targeted, or the one being  hurtful.

Program Overview

The objective of Embrace Civility is to empower students to embrace kindness, inclusion, and civility using a positive norms and student leadership approach that fosters positive behavior and increases student skills as a witness, the one being hurtful, or the one treated badly.

Embrace Civility, will help students gain critical important personal relationship skills in five key areas:

  • Reach Out. Be kind to those who are treated badly or left out and help resolve conflict.
  • Say “Stop.” Help those who are hurtful stop, accept personal responsibility, and remedy the harm.
  • Report Concerns. Report serious concerns to an adult who can help.
  • Stop, Own it, and Fix It. Avoid being hurtful and if you were, stop yourself, accept responsibility, and remedy the harm..
  • Be Positively Powerful. Respond effectively if someone is hurtful and become positively powerful.

This program has been developed for students in grades 4 through high school. For students in grades 4 through 8, a direct instruction approach is recommended. For students in high school a more informal messaging approach, along with student discussions, is recommended.

Program Resources

The program resources include:

Program Approach

The objective in the creation of Embrace Civility is to provide the essential insight into  the underlying research and basic lessons, but to encourage adaptation and creativity in the delivery. Rather than promoting “fidelity” to one set approach, schools are encouraged to engage in a flexible implementation of the program–and engage in ongoing evaluation through the use of the Embrace Civility Student Survey.

It is acknowledged that this is different than the traditional approach that expects fidelity to a very specific approach. To ensure a likelihood of success, the strategy taken in Embrace Civility is the use of an annual survey. This shifts the thinking to more of a continuous improvement model.

The lessons in Embrace Civility can be aged up or down. Schools are especially encouraged to implement an “older students supporting younger students” implementation approach.

  • Older high school students can take on leadership roles and talk with younger high school students.
  • Older and younger high school students can return to their middle schools and talk with the students there.
  • Older middle school students can take on leadership roles and talk with younger middle school students.
  • Middle school students can return to their elementary schools and talk with the fourth and fifth grade students.
  • Fourth and fifth grade students can be leaders for kindness in their schools.

Under ESSA, Embrace Civility and the Engage Students to Embrace Civility approach should be considered to be an evidence-based practice under the category of “Demonstrates a Rationale.

Demonstrates a Rationale. To demonstrate a rationale, the intervention should include:  1) A well-specified logic model that is informed by research or an evaluation that suggests how the intervention is likely to improve relevant outcomes; and 2) An effort to study the effects of the intervention, ideally producing promising evidence or higher, that will happen as part of the intervention or is underway elsewhere …, to inform stakeholders about the success of that intervention.

The Embrace Civility lessons directly address the individual Knowledge and Student Skills expectations in the Center for Disease Control’s HECAT for Violence Prevention for grades 3-5, 6-8, 9-12.

Program Training and Support

An effort has been made to use technologies to provide training and support in a manner that will ensure a wide level of effective access to the underlying research insight and research-based strategies  and the development of a collaborative support network for both staff mentors and students.

This approach also reduces the training and support costs associated with other similar student leadership programs. Often, these costs create a significant barrier.

There are two components of this effort:

  • The 6 Training Videos. Essential research insight has been condensed into a presentation through short videos. Rather than train several staff mentors and a select group of students at one time, this training is available for all staff and all students participating in the program, at the time or in the future.
  • An Engage Students to Embrace Civility Google email discussion group has been established. Both staff mentors and student leaders will be encouraged to participate in this group. This will provide a way for the development of a collaborative support network of those who are using the program.  Collaborative activities, such as a video competition or a flash dance showcase, can be discussed and implemented.

The establishment of the discussion group, along with the instructional videos, will allow Embrace Civility in the Digital Age to offer this program at far lower cost than most alternative programs–and achieve a greater positive impact because of the collaborative group effort.

As an outcome of this group, an additional web site will be established that provides links to online resources that mentors and students have found to be helpful. In addition, this web site will allow for the presentation of work products of the student groups.


Embrace Civility in the Digital Age is mindful that schools vary in size. Therefore, a pricing structure has been established to charge the initial program based on the average student population.

This is an introductory price for the first year of implementation.

Initial Program Costs: $1.00/ student, based on average student population. At the elementary level, count only 4th and 5th grade students. At the high school level, please count all students, as the informal lessons and activities will also benefit the students in the older grades.

Ongoing Program Costs: After the first year, schools will be expected to pay $250 for ongoing participation in the Engage Students to Embrace Civility discussion group.

Book and Professional Development Workshop: Schools are highly encouraged to also watch the videos and obtain a copy of Engage Students to Embrace Civility. A workshop or webinar can provide specific guidance to school leaders, counselors, psychologists, social workers, and special education coordinators on how to better investigate and intervene in the more serious situations. The costs for this will vary based on “dynamics.”

Individual Consulting: Individual consulting services are also available. 

Contact at purchasing@embracecivility.org.

 Oregon ESD Pilot Implementation

My hope is to work with a number of Oregon ESDs to establish a collaborative, regional-based approach to implement the Embrace Civility student leadership program and the Engage Students to Embrace Civility insight, which is strongly on how to better investigate and intervene in the more serious hurtful situations.


My objectives in wanting to collaborate with the Oregon ESDs are:

  • To showcase the incredibly important role that the state’s ESDs can play in supporting the positive outcomes envisioned by Safe and Effective Schools for ALL Students Advisory Committee Recommendations.
  • To implement and assess an approach to establish a Professional/Student Learning Community P/SLC to support positive school climate.

This proposed implementation is designed to support the Deputy Superintendent’s Safe and Effective Schools for All Students recommendations. This report will be released shortly after Labor Day. I participated as an Expert for the Committee and therefore have been able to review the report. I ensure you that the approach I am following supports numerous recommendations–Professional Learning, Implementations, Equity, Data, and Student Voice.

In addition, the Oregon Task Force on School Safety had a recent presentation by Dave Novotney, Willamette ESD, for a Statewide School Safety and Prevention System. This Engage Students to Embrace Civility proposal is fully in accord with the approach the Task Force is pursuing.

Note that the Task Force proposal envisions significant increased funding for the ESDs–something I am totally in agreement with.

My suggestion is that given there is a desire to seek additional funding to establish the ESDs as a vehicle to implement the Safe and Effective Schools for ALL Students recommendations, it likely would be very helpful going into the legislative session with the ability to demonstrate a highly effective implementation of an innovative new approach to address bullying and harassment that engages staff and students in a Professional/Student Learning Community and features students as leaders in fostering a positive school climate for ALL students–and that is fully in accord with the Safe and Effective Schools for ALL Students recommendations.

This is a one page proposal for the ESD Collaboration. A longer proposal for ESD collaboration is also available.

Note: I am also launching Bullying Resolution Services in Oregon for parents whose children are being bullied and for whom the school response has not been effective.

If a parent contacts me whose child is attending school in a district where a school is participating in this ESD program or who has purchased this program separately, I will inform the parent of this relationship and seek a resolution path that fully supports all parties–the student who is experiencing bullying, the school and district, and the student who is being hurtful.

Embrace Civility Student Survey

The development of this program was informed by a survey of students conducted in 2015. This was a national survey of 1,500+ secondary students using a prior extended version of the Embrace Civility Student Survey. A report of the results of this survey is available.



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