Resources Addressing Hate and Harassment in Schools
Our schools reflect our society’s strengths, hopes, aspirations and many challenges—challenges that range from the fact that some don’t have a home or enough to eat to others who don’t know where they fit in or whose anger has become aggression.
There have been many incidents in schools in recent weeks, months and years that reflect these challenges, among them bullying, school shootings and most recently expressions of anger, frustration and hate that include swastikas being drawn in bathrooms, headscarves being torn off and intimidating language ranging from threats of deportation to sexually demeaning comments.
Hate speech in schools in unacceptable. But this is not a new issue. In 1999, the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education issued a guide for schools on protecting students from harassment and hate crime. In 2001, the Learning First Alliance produced a guide on safe and supportive schools. So while some claim the election process and results caused this outpouring of hate, the problem goes far beyond it.
Now is an opportunity for our schools and society to talk about how to help every child feel safe. The teachers, parents, administrators and others who are seeing this current release of hate and frustration also need our support and praise in their efforts to intervene. Stopping a child who is shouting about deportation or an intolerance takes moral and physical courage that we all should admire.
LFA member organizations and many others that work with and advocate for children, youth and families have created resources to help adults facilitate respectful dialogue among students and support those who feel at risk. They are also pressuring national figures to address the issue. For example, several members have joined a call to make our schools' values known. Some signed a letter to the president-elect asking him to publicly denounce acts of hatred and deliver a message of peace and unity to all Americans.
Additional materials to help educators both prevent these acts and intervene when they occur, protecting those who need protecting and changing those whose behavior is appalling, include:
LFA member resources on building a healthy school culture
- Ensuring Safe, Welcoming and Bias-Free Schools, resources from the National Education Association to counter hateful rhetoric and foster positive dialogue, including:
- How to Respond to Incidents of Racism, Bullying and Hate in Schools, tips for educators at all levels
- ‘I’m Going to Reassure Them That They Are Safe’: Talking to Students After the Election, an NEA Today article
- Healthy School Climate, resources and lesson plans from the American Federation of Teachers' "Share My Lesson" to help establish and maintain a supportive, positive school environment
- Helping Students in Troubling Times, guidance from the American School Counselor Association on providing ongoing support to students
- Connect for Respect, National PTA’s initiative to help students, parents and educators to create school climates full of safe and supportive peer relationships
- A Framework for Safe and Successful Schools, co-developed by several leading education organizations—including those representing principals and school counselors—to improve school safety and increase access to mental health supports for children and youth
Other useful resources
- Guidance for Reinforcing Safe, Supportive and Positive School Environments for All Students, from the National Association of School Psychologists
- 11 Ways Schools Can Help Students Feel Safe in Challenging Times, from the Anti-Defamation League
- Fostering Civil Discourse: A Guide for Classroom Conversations, from Facing History and Ourselves
- Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center that offers both classroom resources and professional development
- "Dear Colleague" Letter on Bullying and Harassment, from the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education
- "Start With Hello," a project by the Sandy Hook Promise, trains staff from schools and other organizations to recognize signs of social isolation and help students who feel they do not fit in. The organization holds "Start With Hello" week annually in February.