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Lessons Learned


Responding to Hate and Bias at School
Section Three: After the Worst is Over
Lessons Learned

Debriefing is an essential step in the postcrisis process. Bring together the incident response team to review lessons learned.

But don’t stop there.

“Always make sure there’s an opportunity for exchange with multiple perspectives,” advised Enid Pickett, a California elementary schoolteacher.

Expand the discussion to include students, parents and guardians, and community members. Thoughts and guidance from these constituents should be gathered, reviewed and prioritized as part of the effort for addressing shortcomings within the school community.

It’s best to carry out a facilitated meeting, with strong note taking. The objective is to develop a working list of specific improvements, which can become a road map for change. This list may indicate the need for policy changes, role assignments and skill building.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What worked well?
  • Where are there opportunities for improvement?
  • What resources did we have, and how did we use them?
  • What resources did we lack, and how might we introduce and use new resources in the future?

Steer answers away from simple finger-pointing or blaming.

Dr. James Comer, a child psychiatrist and educational researcher at Yale University, says that a school’s climate-improvement process works best with a “no-fault” framework. In this management style, when people or groups make miscalculations or mistakes in efforts to improve school climate, they are not blamed but receive reassurance, support, guidance and encouragement to try again. A no-fault framework develops trust, encourages initiative and promotes a culture that constructs success from setbacks.

“If you blame people you become defensive [and] fight more,” Comer said. “But if you focus on solving the problem then people start working together to focus on what’s really important and what’s good for the children.”

So steer clear of blame, but do not steer away from discomfort.

“I want us to be uncomfortable, to wake up in the middle of the night thinking about these things,” Pickett said. “I want us to be driving home and be bugged by this. I want us to challenge our own -isms, our own biases.”

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Welcome to Learning for Justice—Formerly Teaching Tolerance!

Our work has evolved in the last 30 years, from reducing prejudice to tackling systemic injustice. So we’ve chosen a new name that better reflects that evolution: Learning for Justice.

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