Responding to Hate and Bias at School

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

A swastika, 20 feet in diameter, is burned into the pavement at a junior high school.

A group of white high school students dresses in banana suits for a basketball game and taunts their majority-black rival with racial slurs.

A Sikh student has his turban pulled off and hair cut by fellow students.

Your school has plans and protocols in place to respond to fires, severe weather, medical emergencies, fights and weapons possession. But what about school incidents like those listed above that involve bigotry and hate? Are plans in place to respond to a bias incident or hate crime? Too often these plans are created in the moment during the actual crisis. Bias incidents are far too complex for on-the-fly planning; an early misstep can heighten tension and damage chances for long-term success.

Responding to Hate and Bias at School is designed primarily for school administrators, but teachers, staff, counselors, students and others also may find guidance here.

The guide is divided into three sections:

Before a Crisis Occurs. How can you and other school leaders assess your school’s climate with an eye toward defusing tension, preventing escalation and avoiding problems?

When There’s a Crisis. What are the nine key points to consider when responding to a crisis that has been triggered by a bias incident at your school?

After the Worst is Over. How can you address long-term planning and capacity building for the future, including development of social emotional skills?

Hateful acts at school are dangerous, disturbing and disruptive. But keep this in mind: A bias incident does not define a school. It is, in many ways, a test of the school’s culture and climate. How you respond is the true measure of a school’s character.

It’s up to school leaders to set expectations. Everyone on staff, from the bus driver and custodian to classroom teachers and the IT department, must know that hate, disrespect and intimidation have no place on campus, and that every student should feel welcome.