Report: Hate speech remains persistent concern in public schools
- In the wake of a spike in reported incidents the day after President Donald Trump was elected, Education Week joined with Documenting Hate, a media collaborative associated with ProPublica, to report on cases of hate speech and intimidation that have occurred in the past two years.
- The review of 472 verified incidents that occurred between January 2015 and December 2017 found that they primarily targeted black, Latino, Jewish and Muslim students. This continues a pattern that has been a problem in schools for years, but a 2015 U.S. Department of Justice school crime survey revealed that 25% of students reported seeing hate-speech graffiti in their schools, a decrease from the 36% reported in 1999.
- District leaders have taken a variety of approaches to the problem, with varying degrees of success, but most stress that incidents must be investigated and handled. They also say that educational initiatives for students and teachers should be used to address the motivations and attitudes behind the attacks, and a greater effort to recruit teachers of color is seen as another key step toward multicultural understanding.
Students from all backgrounds who attend schools have a right to do so without fear or intimidation. However, every day, students are subjected to forms of hate speech and intimidation that would never be excused or tolerated in a workplace environment. Teaching students to respect other races and backgrounds not only helps the victims of these attacks, it also benefits the aggressors who need to learn early how to behave in a workplace and in society as a whole before their actions create greater problems for themselves and others.
Some schools are approaching this issue through social-emotional learning initiatives that strive to teach core human values such as kindness and empathy. Developing these skills can help students better understand the points of view of other classmates. However, more pointed diversity training initiatives may be needed for teachers, and especially in schools where acts of hatred have gained a foothold.
The issue also illustrates the value of greater teacher diversity. Teachers of other races or cultural backgrounds, especially if they are effective teachers, can help students from all backgrounds come to respect other points of view and may feel more comfortable in broaching topics surrounding racial and equity issues. This, in turn, can foster a sense of inclusiveness in the classroom and can help rid students of some of the stereotypes, misinformation and xenophobia that may be the root cause of attacks.
- Education Week Hate in Schools: An In-depth Look