George Lucas Educational Foundation

Becki Cohn-Vargas

Director, Not In Our School at Not In Our Town

I work independently and also promote Not In Our School, a network of educators working to create safe and inclusive schools, free of bullying and intolerance for the national non-profit, Not In Our Town. My work includes designing curriculum, coaching schools and producing films and digital media. I have presented and led workshops on these topics across the United States as well as in Europe and Latin America. Previously, I worked in educational settings for over 35 years as a teacher and administrator.

I began my career in early childhood education at the West Santa Rosa Multicultural Center in rural Sonoma County, California in 1975. I then did community service in Central America in the Guatemalan Highlands and later in the Preschool Department of the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education. When I returned to California, I worked as a bilingual teacher and principal in Oakland, a Curriculum Director in the Palo Alto, and as Superintendent of a small district in San Jose. I also worked as a staff developer for the Child Development Project of the Developmental Studies Center. In each of these settings, I focused on developing and implementing effective teaching strategies for diverse student populations and creating environments that promoted educational equity. In 2003, I learned of the research on identity safety with the Stanford Integrated Schools Project (SISP) and designed a follow-up study with a group of elementary school teachers. My doctoral dissertation focused on identifying, describing, and implementing identity safety.

With Dr. Dorothy Steele, I co-authored the book, Identity Safe Classrooms: Places to Belong and Learn. I also have written many blog posts for national organizations including Edutopia, CNN, the American Federation of Teachers, Teaching Tolerance, and Not In Our Town.

My husband, Rito Vargas and I live in El Sobrante, California and have three adult children living in the Bay Area. With my husband, I also am working to develop an environmental research center on our private reserve in the Nicaraguan rain forest near the border with Costa Rica. We bring groups of college students, teachers, and professors to study the habitat and do environmental education with local Nicaraguan youth and educators (

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  • Bullying Prevention

    Successful Community Efforts to Prevent Bullying

    The strongest anti-bullying campaigns include students, faculty, parents—and the larger community as well.
  • Bullying Prevention

    Fostering Identity Safety in School

    An environment where students are not bullied based on their race or other aspects of identity can be intentionally cultivated both inside and outside of the classroom.
  • Bullying Prevention

    5 Ways to Stop Bullying and Move into Action

    With daily news reports about the devastating impact on students who have been relentlessly bullied, teachers find themselves on the front line in addressing bullying and intolerance. It is time to move into action. Not In Our School offers solutions-based strategies and tools for change to a network of schools that are working to create safe, inclusive and accepting climates.
  • Bullying Prevention

    Hate Is a 4-Letter Word

    Rather than shielding children from news about hate, educators could prepare them for the real world by teaching what hate is and how to prevent it.
  • Social and Emotional Learning

    Bullying: In the Trenches, We Can't Wait for a Definition

    Guest blogger Becki Cohn-Vargas, Director of Not In Our School, likes that researchers and lawmakers are seeking to define bullying, but she stresses that we must continue preventing it even as we wait for a definition.
  • Social and Emotional Learning

    Trayvon Martin: The Wakeup Call to End Stereotype Threat

    Becki Cohn-Vargas, director of Not In Our School, examines the concepts of stereotype threat and identity safety, and suggests how we can prevent one while promoting the other.