Teaching Tolerance offers guides to help schools combat bigotry

A noose is found hanging from a goalpost on a high school campus.

Students pull the turban off a Sikh student and cut his hair.

White students taunt their majority-black rival with racial slurs at a high school basketball game.

These are just a few examples of the hateful and bigoted acts schools encounter every year.

Though schools often have plans for responding to fires, severe weather and other emergencies, they may not be prepared to deal with acts of hate and bigotry.

In response to requests from educators across the country, the SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance project released two guides today designed to help create safe, welcoming schools.

The guides – Responding to Hate and Bias at School and Speak Up at School – are available to schools and educators across the country, at no charge, in time for the new school year.

“We receive a steady flow of calls and e-mails from educators looking for guidance on these issues,” said Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance. “There was clearly a need to help people recognize danger signs at school and address them before a crisis occurs.”

Responding to Hate and Bias at School shows educators how to respond to a hate-related incident in their school or community, guiding them through crisis-management and post-crisis efforts. It also provides research-based strategies for reducing bullying and creating a welcoming school climate.

Teaching Tolerance researched best practices and interviewed administrators, teachers and students from across the country to provide educators with the best responses to incidents of bigotry and hate. The booklet is written primarily for school administrators but provides valuable information for counselors and teachers as well.

Speak Up at School provides guidance for individuals throughout the school. It offers advice for responding to slurs, racist jokes or disrespectful remarks that can be heard anywhere in school, and from anyone.

It recognizes that not every intolerant remark is made in the same spirit. Some reflect genuine animosity, while others are said out of ignorance or a desire to get along with the crowd. Speak Up examines these differences and explores the best ways to handle them. It also provides advice from teachers about situations they’ve faced and what worked for them.

“These kinds of hurtful and biased remarks too often constitute the first steps in bullying and harassment,” Costello said. “But responding to offensive remarks takes forethought and courage. Speak Up coaches individuals to confront bigotry without being confrontational.”