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Hate at School: November 2018

We tracked more hate reports in November 2018 than we did this time last year.

As 2018 winds down, incidents of hate and bias in our schools haven’t decreased. This month, we’ve reported 59 incidents—nine more than we tracked last November. Many of them took place in classrooms, but we’re also seeing hate at school events, on campuses and athletic fields and social media. 

This is what we found in November: 

  • There were 19 anti-Semitic incidents and 27 racist incidents.
  • Six incidents included a mix of racism and anti-Semitism.
  • Six incidents were anti-LGBTQ. 
  • There was one incident of Islamophobia and one of ableism.
  • At least seven acts of graffiti or vandalism displayed a mix of homophobia, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and anti-immigrant rhetoric.
  • Incidents were reported in 24 states. 

We’ve created a new national survey to learn more about hate in schools, and we need your help. Please take a few minutes to tell us about your experiences and share our Educator Survey with friends and colleagues.

As we’ve come to expect, the majority of last month’s hate incidents were racist in nature. But what sets November’s report apart is the increase in anti-Semitism at schools—and the severity of anti-LGBTQ incidents. 

Each month, we find reports of anti-Semitic graffiti in schools. In November, that included swastikas painted in school bathrooms and on buildings. Reports of anti-Semitic rhetoric also surfaced. In West Hartford, Connecticut, for example, a student answered a chemistry question during class only to have a classmate respond, “Jews always think they have all the authority.” Making the connection between hateful language and hate symbols clear, the classmate then built a swastika from beads they were using to make molecules and placed it in front of her target.

At a Chicago-area high school, students have coped with recurring racist and anti-Semitic incidents. Early in November, racist graffiti—which included the phrase "white power”—was found on a shed near the tennis courts. The vandalism included swastikas and a racial slur used to reference a black teacher. More racist and anti-Semitic graffiti was found days later, repeating “white power” and including threats: “All [n-words] must die,” “death to blacks[,]  Muslims” and “gas the Jews." Shortly after, a picture of a swastika was airdropped to students during an assembly. All of this came in a month when a teacher was “reassigned” after admitting to using a racial slur in class, telling students that she didn’t like music with “[n-words]” in it.

In several schools, reports of severe incidents of anti-LGBTQ hate remind us to point educators to our Best Practices for Serving LGBTQ Students guide.  An 18-year-old student in Duncan, South Carolina, was arrested after he tweeted threats to other students. One read, “The ultimate cleansing of all anti straight and non [sic] Christians will happen to day [sic] at 8:10 at James F Byrnes High School.”

In a private message to a classmate, he wrote: 

“Like I said ik I have seen you at Byrnes and I also know u and ur little group of friends are apart [sic] of a lgbt and I hate the lgbt community. So I plan on bombing and shooting up your school today to cleanse everyone that’s not straight or Christian.”

In Maple Grove, Minnesota, a group of male and female teachers and administrators ignored a transgender student’s objections as they unlocked the door of her bathroom stall and exposed her as she was using the bathroom. The student filmed the incident, saying, “I am so scared and violated right now. They just walked in the bathroom while I was using the bathroom for no reason.”

And in Leo, Indiana, students recently filed a lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) when school administrators thwarted their efforts to form a gay-straight alliance. Although they were allowed to create a group, students say administrators made them call it the “Leo Pride Alliance”—with “pride” standing for “Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Diligence, and Excellence.” In their lawsuit, they add, “Not only is the club not allowed to refer to itself as a GSA but its members may not use the words gay, GSA, LGBT+, or similar language, in any of the announcements concerning the club. Unlike other clubs, the Leo Pride Alliance is not allowed to meet outside of a single classroom. It cannot participate in school fundraisers.” 

 

More Hate, More Racism

November saw its share of hate beyond anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ threats. A 10-year-old Muslim student in Framingham, Massachusetts, received several threatening, hand-written notes in her cubby. Scrawled in large letters, one reads, “You’re a terrorist.” Another says, “I will kill you.” 

And in one ableist incident, an audience member at an Indianapolis, Indiana, high school basketball game mocked a player with epilepsy. As he took a free-throw shot, a student from the opposing team’s school fell to the floor and began faking convulsions. In response to suggestions that the stunt was merely intended as a distraction—and an unfortunate coincidence—the player claims that a group of students “chanted, ‘Have a seizure for us’ as I took the ball out on the sideline.” 

As always, racist incidents also played out in schools across the country. 

In Noblesville, Indiana, racist messages with threats of violence were found on a high school bathroom stall. The threats repeatedly used the n-word, asserting that “school shootings are fun” and “blacks will die.”

As schools prepare for their holiday breaks, it’s imperative that educators and administrators reiterate now—and when they return—that there is no place for hate and bias at school. Now is the time to re-evaluate policies already in place, refocus on strategies to prevent such events or, if a hate incident has already taken place, respond in a way that works to address the harm and heal your school community. Our guide Responding to Hate and Bias at School is a great resource no matter the climate of your school.

We know we are not seeing every incident of hate and bias in U.S. schools, as many students with marginalized identities see their bullying or harassment go unreported or unrepresented. When we receive reports of hate, we immediately reach out to the school involved and offer our resources. If you know of an incident in your school, please email hateinschools@tolerance.org, and be sure to take our survey.

Dillard is a staff writer for Teaching Tolerance. To report a hate incident happening at your school or community, email hateinschools@tolerance.org.