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Teaching Tolerance initiative encourages civil discourse during election

Amid a presidential campaign marked by inflammatory rhetoric spilling into classrooms across the country, the SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance project today launched an initiative to encourage schools and communities to set a positive example for schoolchildren by committing to civil and respectful discussions about the presidential election.

The online initiative – Speak Up for Civility – features a civility contract for a school’s teachers, parents and other adults to sign. It serves as a reminder that children are listening to the adults around them and looking to them as role models. It also offers tips on how to ensure that conversations set a good example. A similar pledge is offered for community members.

“We cannot allow the incredibly negative discourse on the campaign trail to silence important discussions about the election in classrooms across the country,” said Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance. “Speak Up for Civility asks adults to be good role models for schoolchildren by recommitting ourselves to civil conversations that respect differing opinions. It’s also about speaking up when others fail to uphold those principles.”

The initiative was inspired by a recent Teaching Tolerance report that found the presidential campaign is having a profoundly negative impact on students, including an increase in bullying of students whose races, religions or nationalities have been targeted by candidates, according to the report, The Trump Effect. More than 40 percent of the educators responding to the survey said they were hesitant to teach about the election.

Teaching Tolerance also offers resources to help teach students to recognize and counter bias, explore controversial topics respectfully, participate in civic life and find reliable and accurate election information.

Teaching Tolerance is dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experiences for our nation’s children. It produces and distributes tools at no cost to teachers, including Teaching Tolerance magazine, online curricula and professional development resources, and multimedia teaching kits that introduce students to various civil rights issues.