Standing Up Against Discrimination

People sometimes look the other way when they see an act of discrimination because they do not know how to stop it. This lesson provides students with real-world examples to help them identify peaceful ways to respond.
Grade Level


Activities will help students:

  • identify acts of discrimination
  • explore ways to stand up against discrimination
  • encourage others to take action against discrimination
Essential Questions
  • What does it mean to be discriminated against?
  • Why do people discriminate?
  • What can we do to stand up against discrimination?
  • How can we stop acts of discrimination at our school?


discriminate [ dih-skrim-uh-neyt ] (verb) to treat a person or a group of people differently than other people, often because of traits such as race, gender, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation



People sometimes look the other way when they see an act of discrimination because they do not know how to stop it. By providing students with real-world examples, we can help them identify peaceful ways to respond.



  1. How would you feel if you weren’t allowed to play a sport, go to a dance or get a job because of how you looked or what you believed in? Would you accept being discriminated against, or would you stand up for yourself? Freewrite your response.
  2. (Note: Facilitate the following jigsaw activity.) Form a group of five (this is your “home” group). Each person chooses one of the following five real-life people who has stood up against discrimination: Constance McMillen, Graeme Taylor, Rochelle Hamilton, Abby Brammer or Samantha Elauf (see web resources above). Make sure all five teens are accounted for within your group; no one should have the same person. You are going to become the expert on the person you chose. As you read, think about who was being discriminated against and why, as well as how people responded to the discrimination.
  3. Now regroup into expert teams (e.g., everyone who has Constance McMillen groups together, and likewise for the other people). Read online about your person. As you read, think about who was being discriminated against and why, as well as how people responded to the discrimination. With your fellow experts, discuss the teen you read about, answering the following questions:
    • Who was being discriminated against?
    • Why was this person being discriminated against?
    • What did he/she and/or others do to stand up against this discrimination?
  4. It is a good idea to take notes since you are responsible for teaching members in your “home” group about this person and his/her experience.
  5. Return to your “home” group. Take turns sharing what you learned about your teen.
  6. Discuss the following as a class: Based on your reading and the summaries you heard from your group members, what do these teens who stood up against discrimination have in common? (Note: Consider capturing student responses on the board or chart paper.) Which actions of theirs can you emulate to stand up against discrimination in your own school or community?
  7. Now have each member of your “home” group read online about a different organization: Not In Our Town, Not In Our School, HERO Teens, Gay-Straight Alliance, and Youth For Human Rights (see web resources above). Share what you learn with your group members. During your discussion, make two-column notes. In the first column, write the names of each organization. In the second column, use details from the texts to record the following information about each group:
    • What is the purpose of this organization?
    • How do they take action against discrimination?
    • Does your school have a group like this?
    • What is the importance of a group like this in our country?
  8. Based on what you read about these organizations and what you learned about teens who have stood up against discrimination, write a proposal for how your group thinks your school should deal with acts of discrimination (you may wish to assign each group member a different section of the proposal):
    • Define what constitutes an act of discrimination.
    • Recommend how the school can prevent discrimination.
    • Identify how students can safely—and anonymously, should they choose—report discrimination.
    • Outline actions the school should take to stop instances of discrimination that are reported.


Extension Activity

Research how to start a school chapter of one of the organizations you read about.

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