“I did not know if I wanted to come to the conference today. In fact, I almost stayed home. I thought I would be the only Muslim student and I was afraid of how I might be treated. I never know how people are going to react when they see me wearing my hijab and it is not like I can hide it.”
“I was bullied every day because I am one of the only African American students at my school. One day, a boy came up behind me when I was getting my lunch in the cafeteria and whispered in my ear so that no one else could hear. He called me the N-word and said that I was lucky that it was 2017, because if we had lived a long time ago I would have been his slave.”
“Before we had this program at my school, I used to tell my mom I was sick a lot so that I could stay home. I was a good student with good grades, but I was so tired of being teased in gym class about my weight. There was a group of girls who would call attention to how thin I was. Once as we were changing, the leader of the group asked me why I didn’t just do everyone else a favor and keep throwing up until I died.”
“I don’t personally get harassed, but a lot of my friends do. People say things to them like they better watch out because they are going to get kicked out of the country or that they smell bad. Sometimes we could all just be playing a game together or hanging out, but then someone shouts out something like that. It makes me feel really bad because I know my friends are good people.”
These are just a few of the things I heard from students last Wednesday. As a former high school teacher and parent, I am well aware that these types of comments are unfortunately commonplace in our schools. That being said, I am still not used to hearing these types of comments and I don’t think I ever will be.
The space in which students shared their experiences with discrimination was part of a larger conference hosted on November 1st by The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of San Diego called No Place for Hate®. No Place for Hate® is an organizing framework for K-12 schools committed to creating sustainable change that leads to improved school climate throughout the United States. Participating schools are able to incorporate ADL’s anti-bias and anti-bullying resources with their existing programming to form one powerful message that all students have a place to belong.
This year, the Anti-Defamation League was thrilled to host one of the largest conferences we have ever had here in San Diego, with a presence of 40 schools, 6 school districts, 109 high school students, 81 middle school students and a total of 133 adult participants. A team of ADL staff, board members, facilitators, and committee members were also on deck to ensure the day was meaningful and valuable for all. Educators Cooperative was proud to be a sponsor and thought partner for this conference that one teacher described as the “most powerful professional day she had ever attended in her 26 years as an educator.”
One of the highlights of the day, was the keynote speaker, Khizr Khan . Khan spoke of the implicit value of civil and respectful discourse in a democracy and how, as a Pakistani immigrant, he had dreamed of one day being able to enjoy the freedoms enshrined in the American Constitution. He ended his talk by handing students copies of his beloved Constitution along with the Anti-Defamation League’s Resolution of Respect. He implored students to continue to speak out against injustice in their communities and assured them that he would continue to speak up as well because he is inspired by the stories he and his wife hear from children around the United States.
Sadly, all too often in the anti-bias work that I do as a facilitator for the Anti-Defamation League, I am asked to come in after an incident has occurred or once a hate crime already has been committed. The No Place for Hate® framework allows students and educators to be proactive, rather than reactive. We can address concerns within a school climate in a preemptive way. Not only does this save school districts a significant amount of money, it fosters true systemic change because it empowers students to be the primary activators in changing their school climate. Most importantly, it could change the daily experience for the students whom I mentioned above, and countless others like them, because going to school should not mean going to a place of hate.
For more connect, with us @EducatorsCooperative — The Human Side of Innovation.