By now you’ve probably seen or heard about a viral Facebook video that shows in the wake of Tuesday’s election. You might have heard about similar incidents being investigated in DeWitt Schools.
At a Pennsylvania high school, students walked brazenly through the halls shouting “white power” while holding a Trump-Pence campaign sign the day after the election. In Minnesota, racist graffiti was painted on walls and bathroom stalls with Trump’s name and campaign slogan appearing next to phrases such as “#whiteAmerica” and “#gobacktoafrica.”
Shaun King, a New York Daily News reporter who covers social justice issues, has been gathering reports on his Twitter feed of hateful speech and behavior occurring all over the country – including a teacher who reported a 10-year-old female student had her genitals grabbed by a boy who said if the president can do it, so can I.
Regardless of educators’ political party affiliations or presidential candidate preferences, no matter who is responsible for students embracing hatred, clearly the election results have emboldened some individuals to express hate speech.
As educators and school employees, we all should agree on these imperatives:
- We must be vigilant in our attention to hate speech and behavior targeting others based on race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender, political beliefs, or sexual orientation.
- We must fulfill our unique responsibility to teach and protect our students by confronting these actions head-on.
“We’re hearing reports from several school districts of kids being harassed for being Latino and Muslims being told, ‘Go home; you’re a terrorist; you’re not going to be allowed to stay in this country,” said Lena Kamal, Safe Spaces coordinator for the Council on American Islamic Relations-Michigan (CAIR-MI).
“It’s happening everywhere,” Kamal said. “It’s really unbelievable. I had one parent text me personally to say she had to pick up her students from school yesterday because they didn’t feel safe.”
Kamal said she has been busy reaching out to superintendents to make them aware of her Safe Spaces program’s free diversity awareness workshops that promote understanding across differences. CAIR-MI is also working to build partnerships with other organizations interested in promoting tolerance, such as the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation.
Educators interested in bringing the free diversity awareness workshop to their school can contact CAIR-MI at 248-559-CAIR or by emailing Info@CAIRMichigan.org.
Students who are bullied for their race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin often feel isolated, anxious, and depressed, making it hard for them to focus on school and learning. It is important for schools to send a strong message that hateful rhetoric and behavior will not be tolerated.
Support for the victim in the form of listening and reassurance from caring adults and supportive students at school also is vital, Kamal said. “We need to strengthen unity and block the division,” she said.
Educators looking for support and ideas on how to respond to divisions in their schools and classrooms can visit NEA’s roundup of resources for ensuring safe, welcoming, bias-free schools.
It begins with the message conveyed by students at Maple Grove Senior High School in Minnesota the day after the offensive racist graffiti was scrawled in their building. A group of students lined up in the morning to greet everyone who entered the building with kindness. They wrote notes of inclusion and togetherness and taped them on the walls.
And they painted this message on the rock in front of their school: “Love will conquer all.”