Responding to Hate and Bias at School
Section Two: When There's a Crisis
A hateful act has rocked the school, and the crisis-response effort continues to move forward. It’s easy to get so focused on specific tasks—investigating the incident, handling the press conference, addressing the victims’ needs—that the bigger picture is lost.
Your community has been wounded. That wound might have come from a source outside the school, such as vandals spraying hateful graffiti on school walls. Or it may have come from inside the school, identifying a deep division among students. Either way, opportunities for healing need to be part of your crisis response.
As the crisis winds down—sooner rather than later—it is helpful to find a way to gather together and share messages of healing and unity. This becomes an initial step into the postcrisis phase, a bridge between crisis management and longer term strategic planning around improving school climate.
One option is to plan a schoolwide or community-wide show of unity. Orchestrating a demonstration of school unity after a hate crime or high-profile bias incident can be a way to begin repairing the sense of community within a school. Distributing ribbons or wearing certain colors can become symbols of determination to recover from the incident and show unity in opposing hate and prejudice at school. Involve the neighborhood and wider community, as appropriate. This type of gathering can have a galvanizing effect, especially if it includes a pledge to work together to address issues raised by the incident.
Consider creating posters or buttons, promoting school values. “Our school stands for…” Paint that slogan on a banner along the hallway, and invite students to add their thoughts. Inclusion. Fairness. Kindness.
A march around the school. A candlelight vigil. A mural painted on the wall that had held the hateful graffiti. Do not frame this as the end of your efforts, but rather as a beginning of further work toward improving school climate and culture.
A Tool for Your Toolbox
Teaching Tolerance has created a nationwide program that can help kick-start this kind of change. Mix It Up at Lunch promotes inclusion and bridge building within schools.