Hate is commonplace in today’s society. From the demonstration of violence and racism in Charlottesville to the massacre of dozens in a gay nightclub in Orlando, we are inundated with reports and images of hate and bigotry.
Unfortunately, children aren’t immune to the hatred either. Some have experienced incidents of hate in schools, on public streets and parks and even in their own homes. These incidents include verbal and physical taunts, offensive drawings and racial slurs and epithets.
Most of these incidents are committed against immigrants, Muslims, African Americans and LGBTQ students, according to CNN.com. As a result, there’s heightened anxiety among these groups, leading to thoughts of suicide in some cases.
Promoting Belonging and Inclusion in After School Programs
Many educators strive to create an inclusive learning environment where all students feel safe and supported. But some may not know how to prevent or respond to incidents of hate and bias among students. Left unchecked, these incidents will only continue and create a culture of intolerance.
In their guide, Responding to Hate and Bias at School, Teaching Tolerance provides tips to help school administrators, teachers and staff address these types of incidents in school settings. Below we’ve summarized their tips for promoting a tolerant school climate that program leaders can also apply in their after school programs:
- Listen, watch and learn. Constantly gauge the climate in your program. Do you hear certain words being used in a derogatory manner? Are you witnessing cultural insensitivity, like disturbing representations? Are some students marginalized or alienated - as individuals or a group? These can be early warning signs of potential hate and bias, and they should be addressed in order to decrease the number of incidents that occur. Check out Speak Up at School for advice on responding to everyday bias.
- Stay current, stay connected. Become familiar with the online tools and platforms your students use to communicate and consume information. These tools are breeding grounds for bias-based bullying and bigoted commentary. While it’s impossible to know everything about social media, understand how students use it, know how to monitor and set expectations around that usage and decide how to respond when these platforms are used to harm a student or target a group of students.
- Set high expectations. Set firm and high expectations early and often for everyone, including yourself, students and staff. Use every opportunity to remind students that your program is a place that does not allow hate and bias to flourish. It’s equally important to reinforce good behavior and praise students for using respectful language. Find ways to demonstrate your expectations with post reminders, reasonable discipline policies and regular discussions about respectful ways people should interact.
- Make the most of teachable moments. Use hate incidents that occur elsewhere to pose the questions “Could it happen here” or “How would we respond?” Frame discussions in a way that outlines the kind of atmosphere you want in your program and how you can achieve that. These “teachable moments” are also good opportunities to discuss the pain inflicted by hate and bias and to build empathy in students.
- Speak up. Don’t remain silent in the face of hate and bias. Instead, encourage everyone to speak up and out against intolerance. Don’t allow any slurs, sexist or racist jokes, taunts or any other harmful act go unchecked. Be ready with a phrase like “We don’t use slurs in this program.” When addressing this behavior, be sure to offer calm, firm guidance. And equally important, be a role model for students and don’t shy away from speaking up against another adult who has used a slur or biased language.
With society’s current climate, it’s important to teach youth to overcome hate and to encourage inclusion and respect for others - despite our differences. Read the entire guide for in-depth advice on how to respond before, during and after a hate incident has occurred.
Do you need more resources for promoting belonging and inclusion in your after school program? After School Alliance, Every Hour Counts and National After School Association teamed up to provide a set of resources to help after school and summer learning providers fight hate and promote love in their communities.