The Top 5 Diversity Stories of 2010

This is a busy week at most schools, with teachers and students returning from the holidays. But before everyone gets focused on what lies ahead, let’s revisit 2010. This list highlights five issues that had a profound effect on diversity and diversity education last year. This is not an exhaustive list. Feel free to add stories of your own. 

1. Anti-LGBT Bullying and Prejudice 

Tragically, September brought news of a string of suicides among LGBT youth. The stories turned a spotlight on anti-LGBT bullying and accelerated demands that districts and states adopt policies to protect all students. At the same time, Teaching Tolerance released its long-planned film, Bullied: A Student, a School and a Case that Made History. Bullied chronicles the story of Jamie Nabozny, who, after years of anti-gay bullying, sued his former school district and won. The September suicides prompted Dan Savage and his partner, Terry, to create the “It Gets Better” project in which thousands adult gays and lesbians posted YouTube videos to support and encourage LGBT youth. The site garnered millions of hits. At the end of the year, Congress repealed the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, ending a law that had effectively closed off the military as a career option for most LGBT high school students. However, Congress could not pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act, an anti-bullying bill that would have protected students from harassment based on sexual orientation or gender expression.

2. Anti-immigration Sentiment

Last spring, Arizona passed a law requiring police to arrest suspected immigrants who are unable to produce documents proving that they are in the country legally. Arizona’s action, which effectively legalizes racial profiling, ignited protests by Latinos—the law’s main targets. The Grand Canyon State also passed a law decreeing ethnic studies illegal, a direct shot at Tucson’s popular Mexican-American studies program. President Barack Obama criticized the immigration law and called for federal immigration reform. But the closest Congress came was a debate over the DREAM Act, which would have allowed undocumented students who were brought here as children to gain legal status by attending college or joining the military. The bill failed to secure passage in the Senate, leaving these young people, who are Americans in every sense but their legal status, with few options. Their employment prospects are limited and their futures remain uncertain.  

3. Increasing Percentage of Children in Poverty 

An estimated 1 in 6 children in the United States lives in poverty. That number is on the rise. More school children are homeless. Experts say that education is the best way to break the cycle of poverty. But the state and local tax revenues that support public schools are dwindling thanks to the recession. Most school districts have long since exhausted their reserves. They are looking to trim budgets by cutting teachers, slashing services, increasing class sizes and closing schools. Struggling urban and rural districts suffer the most. States face huge budget cutbacks of their own, the worst most have seen in a half-century. So they can offer districts little help.

4. Rosa's Law and Students with Disabilities

Last fall, President Obama signed Rosa’s Law, named for 9-year-old Rosa Marcellino. The law bans the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from official documents and replaces them with “intellectual disability” or “individual with an intellectual disability.” Rosa Marcellino has Down syndrome, and her family lobbied for the new law. Meanwhile, in post-Katrina New Orleans, which is often seen as the national laboratory for school reform, the public school system is continuing to fail students with disabilities. The Southern Poverty Law Center and other groups have taken legal action to address the challenges students with disabilities face. Those challenges include being pushed into schools that cannot provide them with federally mandated services and being pushed out of schools through record suspensions and expulsions.

5. Rise of Discrimination Against Muslims

Nearly a decade after the September 11 terror attacks, Muslims report increasingly tense and hostile conditions. Islamophobia is on the rise. Plans for and construction of several mosques around the country have been hotly protested. The loudest outcry came in New York City, where local Muslims had planned to build an Islamic cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero. A mosque in Florida was bombed, and a Christian minister in that same state created an international uproar by threatening to burn Qurans. Increasingly, Muslims feel uncomfortable at work as well. They filed more than 800 claims of workplace discrimination in 2009, up 60 percent over the previous three years.

Williamson is associate editor of Teaching Tolerance.


I think child poverty is the

Submitted by Ryan on 27 January 2013 - 9:44pm.

I think child poverty is the worst because if kids dont get and education early it prevents them from getting into college which will then prevent them from getting a decent job.

I think that we need to focus

Submitted by frankoj18 on 23 January 2013 - 5:47pm.

I think that we need to focus more on child poverty. Children need to be properly nourished and educated.

I think that the children in

Submitted by Bryant b on 13 January 2012 - 12:08pm.

I think that the children in poverty is the most important because children shouldn't be in poverty at such an early age.

All of these issues are

Submitted by daniela robledo on 10 January 2012 - 9:35pm.

All of these issues are important to address, i believe that the immigration dream act failing has affected many students in the US. Students that want to achieve greatness but are limited because of a decision made my their caregivers. Either way all of these issues will hopefully only get better in the future.

I think the most important

Submitted by Teddy Gray on 18 January 2011 - 8:48pm.

I think the most important thing to stop doing is bullying. What is the point of making someone feel bad. How do people feel good doing this, or even causing someone to take their own life? This should stop quickly.

I believe that bullying is

Submitted by Chris Hull on 19 January 2012 - 2:20pm.

I believe that bullying is the most important subject, because if we could end that then there world be no more violence.

I think the most improtant

Submitted by Jack O on 17 January 2011 - 10:43pm.

I think the most improtant topic out of all of these is the bullying. I think this is a very important issue because there is no reason to make a kid feel bad. This issue is will not be easy to stop at all, i just think people have to keep a close eye on everything that is happening and to make sure this would never happen.

I agree with Jack O. The

Submitted by frankoj18 on 23 January 2013 - 5:49pm.

I agree with Jack O. The importance of anti-bullying can not be enforced enough.