06/02/2004

Students use Center resources to address violence, promote tolerance

June 2, 2004 -- As a Center supporter and recipient of Teaching Tolerance magazine, New Orleans elementary school teacher Kim Nance knows the importance of instilling values of tolerance and acceptance into her young students.

So when a Vietnamese shop owner in her predominately black neighborhood was murdered, she was prompted to use her knowledge to help the children understand issues of race and violence.

Several students at Bauduit Elementary knew the victim, and one child was related to the perpetrator, making it even more important to address the incident.

To educate her students on the Vietnamese culture and racial conflict, Nance invited a Vietnamese immigrant to speak to her class. She also spent time teaching about the Center's work to fight hate and promote tolerance — particularly focusing on the Center's 1981 lawsuit against the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, who terrorized peaceful Vietnamese fishermen on the Texas coast.

Nance also made contact with Ashley Day, senior producer of the Center's activist website, Tolerance.org. They set up an online chat room, where the children could ask Day questions about what they can do to fight hate and intolerance in their school and community.

"One of the most rewarding things about working with the Center's tolerance projects is interacting with people in communities across the country who work every day to make the world a better place," Day said. "The kids were just amazing."

Nance and her students met with Day and other Center staff members last month. They were able to secure a grant to travel from New Orleans to the Center headquarters in Montgomery, Alabama, where they presented a Declaration of Tolerance signed by more than 200 students, teachers, and community members.

While at the Center, students and staffers listened to songs and worked on activities from the Teaching Tolerance songbook kit, I Will Be Your Friend: Songs and Activities for Young Peacemakers. Nance and other teachers from Bauduit Elementary were presented with complete sets of the Center's curriculum kits, including the Academy Award-nominated documentary Mighty Times: The Legacy of Rosa Parks.

Nance has already seen the positive effects of her work.

"Slowly the consciousness is starting to seep in," she said. "If somebody starts to put someone down, they say 'Is that promoting tolerance?'"

Nance plans to continue the diversity programs when the children return to school in the fall, and also include tolerance education and conflict resolution as a permanent part of her curriculum.