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Little Rock Mindfulness Digital Literacy

Central High 60 Years Later Good intentions can go wrong Learn the vocabulary

ISSUE 57 | FALL 2017





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The true story of the
students and teachers
who fought to secure
voting rights for African
Americans in the South.
Grades 6-12

Gerda Weissmann was 15 when the Nazis came for her.
They took all but her life.

Gerda Weissmann Klein’s

account of surviving the
Holocaust encourages

BEST DOCUMENTARY thoughtful classroom
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A film by Kary Antholis l

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VIVA LA CAUSA An introduction to

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ATime Follow the civil rights
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development and classroom resources that can help you
improve your school’s climate and help students navigate MIGHTY TIMES
the complexities of our times. THE CHILDREN’S MARCH

The heroic story of the

young people in Birmingham,

Alabama, who brought

segregation to its knees.

YOU CAN NOW … A Student, a School and a Case that Made History
• Search hundreds of FREE short texts A CASE THAT MADE HISTORY
One student’s ordeal at
• Apply for a grant SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER presents the hands of anti-gay
• Share materials with other educators bullies culminates in a
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VISIT TOLERANCE.ORG TODAY! All kits include film and viewer’s guide.
ISSUE 57 | FALL 2017

19 22
5 Perspectives
7 Letters to the Editor
9 Ask Teaching Tolerance
11 Why I Teach
Comic books helped Ronell Whitaker find his
superpowers—in and out of the classroom.

13 Down the Hall

Meet Mitch Bickman. His innovative social studies
curriculum is inspiring thoughtful dialogue among
kids of all ages.

34 46
15 PD Café
Family engagement sounds good in theory, but
what does it look like in practice?

59 Staff Picks
Our book and film reviews can help you keep your
practice fresh and informed.

62 Story Corner
Max just wants to keep everyone safe. So why is
everyone upset with him?

64 One World

on the cover
White nationalists are targeting young people through memes,
message boards and a powerful rebranding campaign. Would you
recognize their rhetoric if it came to your classroom?



Get ready to rock your
school’s Mix It Up at
Lunch Day!

TT_Mix posters double gatefold.indd 1

2 26
19 Secret Agents of Kindness
A teacher gave students a simple task:
be kind, but selfless. The results illustrate 38 What Is the "Alt-Right"?
the contagious effects of humanity. Behind a benign name lies a menacing
22 Little Rock 60 Years Later movement deliberately luring young
people to join. Are your students taking
It took an army to desegregate Central the bait?
High. Sixty years later, the school is an
integration success story—but a rare one. 43 Allowing In the Light
26 Bullying and the Bottom Line How one rural teacher inspired empathy
with pizza, stories and an open door.
The cost of bullying isn’t just
psychological and physical; it’s also fiscal. 46 Nothing About Us
30 What the Numbers Don’t Show Without Us Is for Us
Youth activist Hazel Edwards recounts
What do we mean when we say schools

6 50
are failing? This Detroit teacher flips her journey from being pushed out of
the script on the “f” word. school to teaching her district how to
serve transgender students.
34 Fighting Fat Stigma With Science 50 Teaching From the Bulls-eye
What can we assume about students’
health based on their weight? Nothing. How to protect your school—and your
students—from hateful harassment.

54 Speaking of Digital Literacy …

Understanding how the brain processes
information can help students unravel
the origins of fake news and other
mysteries of the internet.

56 Mindful of Equity
Mindfulness calms students down and
teaches them to listen. But could it be
subjecting them to injustice?


Filter bubbles? Signal boosters?

Watch our short video on how
these phenomena can drive
the news cycle away from
the truth. tolerance.org/

FA L L 2 0 1 7   3
DIRECTOR Maureen B. Costello DESIGN
DEPUTY DIRECTOR Adrienne van der Valk DESIGN DIRECTOR Russell Estes
SENIOR DESIGNERS Michelle Leland, Scott Phillips
SENIOR EDITOR Monita K. Bell DESIGNERS Shannon Anderson, Cierra Brinson, Sunny Paulk, Kristina Turner
MARKETING COORDINATOR Lindsey Shelton Joe Anderson, Becki Cohn-Vargas, Michael Driver, Mary Gerstein,
ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT Michelle Brunke Debra Ginsberg, Matthew Homrich-Knieling, Ryan Inzana, Hasan Jeffries,
Maya Lindberg, Jenn Liv, Josh Moon, Karsten Moran, Shaw Nielsen, Zachariah
ADVISORY BOARD Ohora, Alice Pettway, Pemberley Pond, Mary Rafferty, Robert L. Reece,
Dale Allender, Lhisa Almashy, Julie Bradley, Hayley Breden, Kimberly Burkhalter, Gretchen Robinette, Marvin Shaouni, Kate Shuster, Chelsea Tornetto,
Kevin Cordi, Kim Estelle, Carrie Gaffney, Soñia Galaviz, Angela Hartman, Gail Heath, Kyle Webster, Ronell Whitaker, Daniel Zalkus, Ping Zhu
Michelle Higgins, Amber Makaiau, Amy Melik, Veronica Menefee, Amber Neal, Sarah
Neely, Lois Parker-Hennion, David Paschall, Celeste Payne, Kinette Richards, Joe SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER
Schmidt, Kim Siar, Scott Thomas, Barbie Garayúa Tudryn CO-FOUNDERS Morris Dees, Joseph J. Levin Jr.
PRESIDENT & CEO J. Richard Cohen

SPLC BOARD OF DIRECTORS Alan B. Howard (Chair), Henry L. Solano (Vice Chair), Jocelyn Benson, Bennett Grau, Bryan Fair, Will Little,
Howard Mandell, James McElroy, Lida Orzeck, Elden Rosenthal, James Rucker, Ellen Sudow, Joseph J. Levin Jr. (Emeritus)

EDITORIAL OFFICE 400 Washington Avenue, Montgomery, AL 36104

EMAIL editor@tolerance.org SUBSCRIPTIONS tolerance.org/magazine/subscribe
Teaching Tolerance is mailed twice and released online three times a year at no charge to educators. It is published by the Southern Poverty
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this issue is dedicated to

the loving memory of
our colleague and friend

Sarah Viets


Printed with inks containing 27.3% renewable resources




IS 100%
Perspectives “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates
so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone,
they will be forced to deal with pain.”
James Baldwin

IT’S AUGUST 24 as I write this column. Twelve cannot be tolerated. It has no valid role
days ago, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, armed in societies based on the ideal—even if
anti-government militias and assorted pro- unrealized—that all people are equal
ponents of racist ideologies brought havoc to and have equal rights. The Paradox of
Charlottesville, Virginia. ¶ Five days ago, a dif- Tolerance is that a democratic soci-
ferent scene played out in Boston. ¶ The images ety must tolerate all ideas, with one
and video from Charlottesville led the news exception: intolerance. Hate has a
for days. Boston was covered only briefly, and unique power to intimidate, silence
mainly as a “disaster averted” story. ¶ But Boston and injure an entire class of people. It
has more to tell us about what we need to do. stifles free expression and harms us all
in the process.
When I taught high school stu- (think Ferguson, Trayvon Martin, the Yes, many of you will hear that you
dents about Selma, Birmingham and aftermath of the presidential election), can’t take a side, that your job is to be neu-
Little Rock—and showed images of the educators exchanged resources and ideas tral and nonpartisan. But hate speech,
white people who raged against threats for teaching about race and having diffi- especially in schools, cannot be subject
to their cherished caste system—my cult classroom conversations. to debate. There’s simply no reason for
mostly white students reacted with How about if we also teach the any teacher to legitimize a hateful posi-
disbelief that anyone could be so far on #BostonCurriculum? There’s a lot we tion with, “Well, some people think…”
the wrong side of history. They wanted can learn from Boston. In the end, we will only inoculate
to believe that, had they lived during Lesson #1: Love is bigger and stron- young people against hate by develop-
those times, they would have stood ger than hate. In Boston, about 100 peo- ing their positive self-identity and empa-
against oppression and with the activ- ple showed up for the so-called “free thy, helping them recognize and think
ists seeking justice. It’s a story many of speech” rally to proclaim their right critically about injustice, and equipping
us tell ourselves when we study history to spew hate; 40,000 people joined the them with the skills and dispositions to
marked by prejudice and hate. peaceful counter-protest, “Stand for take informed action.
But, as it turns out, we do live in Solidarity.” Across the country—and in Our schools are the crucibles in which
those times. your school—most people are repelled we’re forging the future. As educators, we
We are experiencing a fraught by messages of hate. They want to take a need to hold on to a vision of the soci-
moment in which it is impossible to stand. They just don’t always know how. ety we want to live in 20 years from now.
stay neutral. The students we teach in Lesson #2: We lead and teach by tak- Picture it as clearly as you can: Is it a place
20 years will want to know, “Where did ing a clear stand. “The young people of our where people listen to each other and
you stand? What did you do to combat city are watching TV, are following this,” participate in civil dialogue, even when
hate? How did you seek justice?” Mayor Marty Walsh said the day before they disagree? Does every person have
In the past 10 days, I’ve read count- the scheduled rally. “We have to make a stake and take responsibility for the
less messages from educational leaders it clear what we stand for in the city of health of the community? Is authority
exhorting teachers to denounce hate and Boston.” After the march, the police com- exercised wisely? Does everyone have
fearlessly teach about what’s going on. missioner, William Evans, added that equal access to opportunities?
I’ve been one of those exhorting voices. “99.9 percent of people were here for the Fix that picture in your mind. Share
Within hours, writer Melinda Anderson right reason, and that’s to fight bigotry.” it with colleagues. And build it in your
created #CharlottesvilleCurriculum and, Lesson #3: There is no moral equiva- classroom and school.
just as we’ve seen so many times before lency between the opposing sides; hate —Maureen Costello

@Tolerance_org teachingtolerance.org FA L L 2 0 1 7   5


Check out the SPLC’s program for college students!
Developed to empower student activists, SPLC on Campus
provides free resources and support to club members.
Do you attend college or work with college students? Start a club
today and advocate for the social justice issues you care about!

Order our new guide to

the “alt-right”! For more #WhatDemocracyLooksLike
information, visit

Reader Reactions
Our magazine feature story “Immigrant
and Refugee Children: A Guide for
Educators and School Support Staff” is
essential reading for anyone working with
undocumented youth. Take a look at

This is so vital and important. We need to

advocate for these kids and their families.
We need to build trust between home
and school.
Submitted by Kathy O’Hara-Rosa

Often, educators and school support

staff are the first to witness the impact
of increased enforcement measures on
students and their families. If you live
in an ethnically diverse school district,
you may want to share this guide.
Submitted by Erika Berg


Our latest magazine issue, a LONGTIME SUPPORT and promoting empathy, latest news. Check it out at
brand-new guide for serving I’ve supported @splcenter agency for social change and tolerance.org.
English language learners and and @Tolerance_org for actively engaged citizenship.
posts about school choice decades! I think they’ve led —Anonymous AN OMISSION
have inspired a lot of dialogue the way on fighting hate VIA SURVEY I love what your maga-
with our readers. with creative vision better zine, blogs, media, stand
than any! EDITOR’S NOTE for. Words cannot express
—Julie Segal Walters If you haven’t visited us how important these issues
(@J_S_DUB) VIA TWITTER online in a while, our old are. As a Native American
website and our curricu- teacher/person, how-
SPARKING DIALOGUES lum tool Perspectives for ever, I must say that even
[The Perspectives text a Diverse America are an organization such as
library] plays a great role in now part of one amazing yours continues to perpet-
opening up dialogue, engag- and unified site, filled with uate the omission of Native
ing diverse populations, resources, tools and the issues. Our children are still

@Tolerance_org teachingtolerance.org FA L L 2 0 1 7   7
obviously “missing” in your EDITOR’S NOTE THE SCHOOL
lineup. …It is time to stop Our Social Justice Standards CHOICE DEBATE
this and make it right. provide anchor standards I’m just wondering why
—Darla Phillips and learning outcomes in Teaching Tolerance has Burrow Bunch
VIA EMAIL four domains: Identity, taken what appears to be For the last couple
an anti-choice years I have made
THERE DURING stand with it a habit to check
DIFFICULT TIMES regards to edu- your Facebook posts
Thank you for all that you cation. … I’m *before* I go into my
do to provide resources for not saying that classes (university
teachers and students in we need to be courses for pre-
these difficult/challeng- in the busi- service teachers);
ing times. I was particu- ness of public y’all NEVER
larly touched by the vari- school bashing, disappoint and are
ety of materials available for but promoting ALWAYS timely in
teachers to support immi- the concept of your discussions. …
grant families in schools school choice, THANK YOU for
and their communities. ... faith-based your dedication
Please don’t stop what you schools, or fam- to providing
are doing on behalf of all the ilies choos- practical resources.
minority students out there. ing their best VIA FACEBOOK

—Joyce Lawrence options seems

VIA EMAIL to be one which
would increase SO MANY USES!
A DEEPER CONNECTION tolerance. Our administrative team
I have been using Teaching Diversity, Justice and Action. —Dan Tully is using [Responding to
Tolerance lessons and ideas Read more and start incor- VIA EMAIL Hate and Bias at School: A
in my classroom for several porating them into your Guide for Administrators,
years, but really was able teaching: tolerance.org/ #WINNING Counselors and Teacher] as
to connect more deeply social-justice-standards. [On Best Practices for Serving a construct for our opening
with the Social Justice English Language Learners assemblies with students,
Standards after attend- SPREAD THE LOVE and Their Families] Teaching as one of our foundations
ing [a workshop] at The I just wanted to say how Tolerance for the win again. for an annual leadership
Museum of Tolerance in much I love your organi- If you work with ELLs, check conference for our stu-
Los Angeles. I think they zation, the newsletters, this out! They also have free dents [and as] a guide in
are easy to use and really materials, staff picks, etc. I resources on their website! setting how we react to and
help breathe social justice am pursuing my doctorate —Liana Davis respond to incidents.
into any unit. in Educational Diversity, VIA FACEBOOK —Mike Klugman
—Jennifer Fetter Martin and I am a coordinator for VIA EMAIL

VIA EMAIL Social Justice teaching in EDITOR’S NOTE

my school district, which Best Practices for Serving
is greatly expanding next English Language Learners DID YOU KNOW?
year. Just love it!!! and Their Families is
—Enadrienne Rosser packed with recommenda- Research indicates that one
VIA EMAIL tions for instruction, class- aspect of segregation—the
STELLAR room culture and more. disparity in school poverty
Access the full guide at rates—is also consistently the
Karen Corsello @MsCorsello t-t.site/ELL-guide. most powerful link to aca-
My favorite educational site is @Tolerance_org. demic achievement gaps.
I’ve been hooked since I did my student teaching —Stanford University Center for
in 2007! Wow! 10 years! Education Policy Analysis

8  T E AC H I N G TO L E R A N C E
Ask Teaching Tolerance
building intellectual curi-
osity and understanding
about other points of view.
From there, you can begin
building an intellectually
safe community of inquiry
through a class contract
and group discussion. Help
students establish a stan-
dard that all participants of
the classroom community
can ask any question and
state any point of view as
long as they are respectful
of their classmates.
It’s also important to
make sure you’ve cultivated
a positive classroom cli-
mate and fostered commu-

nity before you start heavy
conversations. Our guide
A student came in with a “Hillary for Prison” T-shirt, Let’s Talk! Discussing Race,
Racism and Other Difficult
and I suggested it might be inappropriate for Topics With Students (toler-
school. My administrator told the student that political ance.org/lets-talk ) is a great
tool for preparing yourself
statements on clothing are allowed, but our dress code and your students for such
discussions. Also, check out
says students may not wear clothing that “ridicules a our 20 Face to Face Advisories
person or a group.” How do I talk to my administrator (tolerance.org/pub/face-
to-face) for activities that
about why this is wrong? fuse anti-bias education and
high student engagement.
Building a sense of cama-
The Supreme Court has are no grounds for the I teach a social ethics raderie with your class can
usually upheld the First school to intervene. course and a world religions help make challenging dis-
Amendment rights of Instead of advocating for course, and I constantly cussions easier to dive into.
students to wear mes- enforcement of the school have students who derail Finally, talk with these
sage T-shirts in schools. policy, use this situation as the class with their rejec- disruptive students pri-
As a general matter, the a teachable moment to talk tion of the material. Do you vately, and invite their
school may not censor about our judicial system and have strategies to help ease honest feedback on the
the expression unless the civil discourse (tolerance.org/ the classroom tensions and class and your teaching.
message substantially pub/civil-discourse). Engage build a better rapport with Reflecting on their evalua-
interferes with school students in a discussion these students? tions can help you become
operations or invades about the value of focusing Start off the semester by a more effective educator.
somebody’s rights (to on policies rather than vil- letting students know that
privacy, for example). ifying political candidates. you realize they may be ASK TEACHING TOLERANCE!
T-shirts like this are con- While some politicians and uncomfortable with some Need the kind of advice
sidered political speech, citizens have played dirty of the topics and may dis- and expertise only Teaching
and the “Hillary for politics, students do not agree with some of the per- Tolerance can provide? Email
Prison” shirt is likely pro- have to do that. spectives you present. This us at editor@tolerance.org with
tected. Therefore, there is a great opportunity for “Ask TT” in the subject line.



Check out
some of our most
talked-about posts.
Go to tolerance.org
and search for
these headlines:

What Is Cinco
de Mayo?

To Know Our

“But You Don’t Look Like a Muslim” American History Is to

Know Ourselves
Knowing that even some Muslims believe that there is a “look” for us to embody,
Teaching Students to
I asked my student to tell me more about why she felt that there was one way that See Each Other
Muslims looked. I thought it would be important for her to think through why she BY LAUREN POROSOFF
held that view and for the class to be able to discuss this viewpoint as well. Both
the student and others agreed that this is what has been portrayed to them via the
media, and that they had believed it. To Teach a Complex
Issue, Skip the
Then two of the Muslim students in class spoke up and talked about the K-W-L Chart
Islamophobic bus ads circulating through our San Francisco streets. These BY JEFFREY WEBB
ads depicted Muslims as terrorists, contained words like jihad and referred to
Muslims as being “uncivilized.”
This was the beginning of a larger conversation around Islam, Muslims and
Islamophobia—fueled by my students’ curiosity and my objective to deconstruct
common stereotypes about Muslims or people who are perceived to be Muslims. DID YOU KNOW?

In a 2015 national
survey of school
And a reader replied… climate, 60 percent
This is well written and a perfect example of how our classrooms and teachers can be of transgender
instrumental in educating our kids about the politics happening today. … Good read. students reported
being required to use
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE: bathrooms or locker
rooms corresponding
tolerance.org/article/look-muslim to their legal sex.


Why I Teach
Ronell Whitaker is an English teacher
and technology coach at H.L. Richards
High School in Chicago, Illinois.

The Comic Book Teacher

I’ve been teaching for over 10 years, went up all around me with answers Now, even though my teacher’s
and I’ve been teaching with comics of “hair” or “skin” or even “muscles.” lesson that day was about the human
for the past seven. But my journey to Before I knew it, my hand went up, too. body, what I learned was that the
becoming the Comic Book Teacher You see, I might have felt out of place comics I loved so much were actu-
started when I was a kid. When I most times in school, but I had been ally teaching me things I could use
started second grade, I was part of a consuming a steady diet of Spider- in class! However, while my confi-
school-busing program that took kids Man, X-Men and The Incredible Hulk. dence in class was growing, I still was
like me from what we might now call And if there was any topic I felt con- struggling to find friends. I’d sit at
“at-risk” surroundings and put us in fident in, it was science. The teacher the lunch table with other kids, bring
a more successful school. This was called on me and I said, “The human out my X-Men comic and read while
especially tough for me because I was body is made of atoms, molecules, cells I ate. Yet again, comics came to my
way outside of my neighborhood, and and stuff that’s controlled by genes that rescue. One of the boys in my class
I knew no one. I felt like an alien. come from your DNA.” My teacher had saw what I was reading, came over
Until one day in science class when a shocked expression on her face, con- and asked if he could see it. We began
we were learning about the human firmed what I said and
body, and my teacher asked, “What is then went on to talk about
the human body made up of?” Hands skeletons and muscles.

SHARE YOUR Story What motivates you to get up each morning

and serve students in our nation’s schools? We want to hear from you. Send your
600-word submission for the “Why I Teach” column to editor@tolerance.org.


talking about how cool Wolverine A R T I C L E 2 . 6 . 1 7 / / C L A S S R O O M P R A C T I C E , S C H O O L C L I M AT E

What Do Your Classroom

was and argued about whether
Batman could beat Superman in
a fight. In short, we became fast
friends. This was my first experience
with one of the other pluses of com-
Walls Convey?
ics: community building. BY SAMANTHA SCHOELLER
When I became a teacher, I knew
I would use comics in my classes In the wake of rising bias incidents in public schools and an increas-
because of how I had benefited from ingly alarming political climate, my feelings about the importance
them, but I also knew that comics of my classroom’s physical environment have shifted. Perhaps con-
had some other superpowers. Yes, trary to what some may believe, as an educator I can control very
comics are engaging, but they also little about my students’ lives and even their well-being. But I can
allow reluctant readers to build con- control the physical environment they sit in for 41 minutes, five
fidence in comprehending and infer- times per week. And during those precious few minutes, I can try to
ring. My students who once felt like
convey that they are welcome and safe. ...
they were missing out on what was
going on are now “in on the secret,”
And, while the research may be varied or even contrary in some
and they are often the ones who cases, one aspect is clear: Students notice what teachers hang on
feel empowered to lead discussions. their walls. In that context, what messages do we
Comics can help students become want to convey, beyond the content in our lessons?
successful in areas in which they How can we let them know we care about them,
weren’t previously successful. even if they don’t want to talk to us directly? How
Comics also are more current can we try to make them feel just a little bit safer
than traditional classroom reading inside their seats, especially in increasingly uncer-
options, which leads to more rele- tain times?
vance in the material. Broader repre-
sentation is easier to find in today’s
comics than in short stories and nov-
els on the recommended reading lists And a reader replied…
in many schools. Comics are where I We absolutely believe that visuals like these posters, student art work,
send students who never see them- peace poles, etc. play a huge role in creating the cultures of peace, tol-
selves in stories. This is why a few col- erance and nonviolence. … Don’t underestimate the importance of
leagues, the education directors at what is displayed on classroom/school walls and in the halls.
Pop Culture Classroom and I started
the Comics Education Outreach pro- READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE:

gram. We want to get comics, espe-

cially social justice-centered com-
ics like March and Persepolis, into as
many classrooms as possible through
our lending library of comics and
graphic novels. DID YOU KNOW?
I start off every school year by
telling kids a little about myself.
Inevitably, when I mention how much Over the past 30 years, the federal A 2012 study of youth enrolled
I love comics, I always get a bunch of prison inmate population multiplied in weight-loss camps found that
kids who light up with surprise and more than 8 times over. And between 64 percent reported experiencing
delight. Then they ask the question 1980 and 2013, federal spending weight-based victimization and
they didn’t know they’d get to ask a on prisons grew by more than 500 bullying, most commonly from
teacher: Do you think Batman could percent, making up 23 percent of the their peers or friends but also from
beat Superman in a fight? Justice Department’s budget. parents and teachers.
—The Brennan Center for Justice —Pediatrics

12  T E AC H I N G TO L E R A N C E
Down the Hall

Big Ideas
for Social
Meet Mitch Bickman, the director
of K–12 social studies for Oceanside
School District in Oceanside, New
York. Bickman is passionate about
offering opportunities for students
to think critically, engage in thought-
ful dialogue and make real-world
connections. In 2016, the New York
State Social Studies Supervisory
Association named him the
Supervisor of the Year.

What inspired you to become a social

Mitch Bickman is the director of K–12 social
studies educator? studies for Oceanside School District.
It was both my experience in high
school and a teacher I had as a junior
in high school whose name is Carmine
Verde. He was my U.S. history teacher,
and his passion and enthusiasm for
a subject that I already enjoyed was
something that definitely sparked
something in me that said, “This is the
career I might want to pursue.”

During the 2016-17 school year, you 85 percent white, and Uniondale but create something more mean-
started a program called Bridges, High School is closer to 97, 98 per- ingful than a one-time dialogue?” I
through which 60 students from dif- cent Latino and African American. He reached out to Uniondale’s chair of
ferent schools will spend six years, said he wanted to have a conversation social studies and we had a conver-
grades 7–12, in dialogue with each between seniors, government stu- sation, and then I reached out to a
other about social issues. How did dents, about race in America. few of our Oceanside teachers who I
this program come about? These 17- and 18-year-olds had thought would be perfect partners in
In December of 2015, I was con- about an hour-and-a-half dialogue this program. That’s essentially where
tacted by a professor out of Hofstra that was raw, it was powerful, it was Bridges was born from.
University who was actually my pro- emotional at times. As powerful as The kids have been just so open
fessor in grad school, Alan Singer. this experience was for students, the to this experience. You don’t see stu-
He said, “I’d love to have a dialogue problem was that it was a one-off. dents too often sitting across from a
between Oceanside and Uniondale,” That planted a seed for me, say- peer and just intently listening [to]
which is one of our neighboring dis- ing, “How can we not only replicate their thoughts, their views, their con-
tricts. Oceanside High School is about these conversations and interactions versation and then weighing those



Lessons Learned In the Big Ideas for Little Kids program, readings include
Our classroom resources are
Margaret Wise Brown’s The Important Book, Arnold Lobel’s
grade-specific and align with
the four domains of the Social Frog and Toad series and Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree.
Justice Standards: Identity,
Diversity, Justice and Action. thoughts and responding thought- other things that they didn’t initially
Find the lessons at tolerance. fully to them. Ultimately, this will cul- think about.
org/classroom-resources. minate in a service-learning project We have now, over the past three
Discovering My that students will determine in their years, worked with four of our six
Identity—Identity sophomore year and execute in their elementary schools across grades
(Elementary School) junior and senior years. K–6. And by next year, we’ll hit
In this lesson inspired by our last two elementary schools,
#1000BlackGirlBooks founder You run a program called Big Ideas for and then our plan is for this to just
Marley Dias, students use illus- Little Kids. What is its goal? become part of the curriculum.
trated books to analyze and The goal of this program is to expose
reflect on the many components students, as young as kindergar- During the 2017-18 school year, what
that make up one’s identity. ten, to philosophical thinking and to lessons or themes do you think stu-
Understanding build a framework for questioning dents should be exposed to in their
Disabilities—Diversity and thinking. social studies classes?
(All Grades) Big Ideas for Little Kids was One of the things we’re looking to
Use this lesson to teach stu- named after the same book by Tom embed more purposefully into the
dents about different kinds Wartenberg out of Mount Holyoke curriculum is real-world problems
of disabilities and about the College and he’s a philosophy pro- that the students could investigate
importance of respectful and fessor. We mirrored his work: What through an inquiry-model approach
sensitive communication. he does with college students is he and look to tackle and possibly solve
Music and the pushes into elementary classrooms or propose solutions.
Movement—Action and has philosophical discussions Another big goal of ours is to
(All Grades) with his students being the ones lead- focus more on dedicated instruction
Students examine the history of ing the discussions. of media literacy. Of course, a hall-
music in political movements and When we read books about brav- mark of social studies education is
then write their own anthems to ery with K–6 students and ask them always to look at the validity or reli-
support issues they care about. what it means to be brave, their first ability of sources, which we have
thought more often than not—espe- been doing for a very long time. But
cially in grades K, 1 and 2—is that it’s taken on an added urgency and
bravery means someone is strong. importance, given both the climate
(High School)
Using advertisements and During these discussions, something of our nation and things we’re seeing
multimedia, students ana- magical happens and we see this evo- in the world today.
lyze examples of stereotypes lution where their definition of brav-
about Muslims and create their ery expands. And by the time we’re DOWN THE HALL
own campaigns to counter done with this 30-minute conver- Know an excellent administrator, librarian
sation, bravery can mean running or counselor we should interview? Tell us all
Islamophobia in school.
away. Bravery can mean all these about them at editor@tolerance.org.

FREE STUFF! A chronicle of the Student

Nonviolent Coordinating
Committee, the SNCC
The #ImmigrationSyllabus
collects multimedia and
extensive readings to pro-
Featuring more than a
million resources, the
Smithsonian Learning Lab
The interactive site
Changing Minds weaves
together scientific
These web resources offer Digital Gateway reveals the vide a deep, 15-week dive can be used by educators or research and personal sto-
diversity-rich information civil rights group’s back- into the history of immigra- students to discover, exam- ries to build understanding
and materials for educators. ground and vision through tion in the United States. ine and share items from the of trauma while also pro-
historic documents, inter- editions.lib.umn.edu/ Smithsonian’s major collec- viding strategies for help-
views and more. immigrationsyllabus tions and research centers. ing youth heal.
snccdigital.org learninglab.si.edu changingmindsnow.org

14  T E AC H I N G TO L E R A N C E

When is the last time you visited or called a parent or guardian

Home Visits
without bad news?

How are you equipping teachers to build relationships with fami-
lies through visits? Learn the benefits of home visits and best prac-
tices for how to prepare for and conduct them.


FA L L 2 0 1 7  

Best Practices
The Benefits
Family engagement contributes to a These are some best practices for Note to teachers: Take extra care when
range of positive student outcomes, teachers and administrators con- communicating with immigrant fami-
including: cerning home visits: lies about visiting their homes. Make
Improved achievement; Visits should be voluntary for edu- it clear in advance that you are not
Decreased disciplinary issues; cators and families, but administra- from any government immigration
Improved parent- or guardian-child tors should seek at least 50 percent agency, such as ICE, and that you will
and teacher-child relationships. participation from a school’s staff. not talk with any such agency. Also,
Home visits should always be do not ask about immigration status
arranged in advance. It’s helpful for during the visit—or at any other time.
schools to decide if they want edu-
cators to visit families once or twice Different Families, Different Visits
per year and whether that first visit Just as instruction is differentiated,
will take place before the school year so too are home visits. Depending on
begins. Some districts also follow up the needs of the student and family
home visits with family dinners at and the previous history of the teach-
the school to continue deepening er-family relationship, a home visit
school-family ties. might be:
If possible, schools should com- A formal conversation on the
pensate educators for their home- couch;
visit work and train them effectively. A meal together;
Educators should visit in teams of A guided tour of a home (includ-
two. In some cases, teachers partner ing favorite toys and hangout spots);
with other teachers, social workers Walking the family dog in the park
or the school nurse to help address a or another excursion to an agreed-
student’s well-being in a more com- upon meeting place.
prehensive manner.
It’s important that educators visit a Note: Keep in mind that some fami-
cross-section of students—ideally all lies may not be comfortable having
of them—rather than target any par- guests in their homes and would prefer
ticular group. to meet somewhere else. In this case,
The goal of the first home visit is you could offer the school or another
to build relationships. Educators location as a meeting place.
should talk about families’ hopes and
aspirations for their students.

story from the field: keep your eyes on the speaker

“I once went on a home visit to a trailer home. We sat at the kitchen table, and I was astounded to see a hole around a foot and a half in diam-
eter right in the middle of the kitchen, through which I could see the dirt underneath the trailer. However, as mortified as I was, I thought that it
probably was even more mortifying for the mother who so kindly received me. She was probably embarrassed and the least I could do was to keep
my eyes on her and focus on our conversation instead of on the material distractions around us. My job is to focus on the human being, not on the
dehumanizing conditions many people have to live in.”
— Barbie Garayúa-Tudryn, elementary school counselor and TT Advisory Board member

16  T E AC H I N G TO L E R A N C E
Home Visit Checklist:
Before  If you need to share paperwork, wait 20-30 minutes before
 Participate in home-visit training. delivering it or plan to send it at a later date.
 Call each student’s home, and explain the  Ask the family what they need from you, and make a plan to
purpose of the visit. connect again in the future.
 Schedule the visit.
 Determine if a translator is needed. The After
student should not serve as a translator.  Make a phone call or send a text or note
 Confirm the day before or the day of the thanking the parents or guardians for the
home visit. meeting.
 Before the visit, reflect on the reason you’re there in the first  Invite the family to an upcoming event.
place: to build a relationship with the family and collaborate  Document the visit, and share takeaways
with them for the well-being of the child. with appropriate stakeholders.
 Follow up with any resource needs that
During came up during the visit.
 The visit should be 20-30 minutes long.
 Bring a partner.
 Get to know the family. Find out if they have other children
in school.
 Talk about the family’s hopes
for their students and share yours.
To learn more, read “Meet the Family” and
 Avoid taking notes or bringing
watch our on-demand webinar Equity Matters:
paperwork, which can make fam-
ilies feel as if they are being eval-
Engaging Families Through Home Visits.
uated and can cause nervousness
and disengagement.

Critical Training Elements for Administrators

Training and preparing for a home visit can be as important as the visit itself. Consider these pointers from the experts
when designing professional development for your home-visit program.

Review logistics, such as how or families will perceive during the Coach teachers to establish the
to make contact, how and when to home visit. To learn more about purpose for the visit ahead of time.
schedule visits, whether and how to implicit bias, view our on-demand Goals should focus on getting to know
record discussions with families, and webinar Equity Matters: Confronting the child as a learner and setting the
what to do with the documentation Implicit Bias. stage for partnership, not on problem-
and data. Some prior knowledge is essen- atic behavior or performance.
Remind teachers to leave tial, such as whether a translator Model how to talk about both the
assumptions behind and keep an will be necessary (it is not appropri- student and the family. Some fam-
open mind regarding each family, ate to use the student as a transla- ilies may have significant needs.
their culture and their values. tor), whether the family has access to Connecting them to resources can
Address implicit bias and the a working phone or if the child lives benefit their child’s learning.
impact it can have on what educators between two households.

FA L L 2 0 1 7  



This film tells the story of a courageous group of

students and teachers who, along with other activists,
fought a nonviolent battle to win voting rights for African
Americans in the South. By organizing and marching
bravely in the face of intimidation, violence, arrest and
even murder, these change-makers achieved one of the
most significant victories of the civil rights era.

k 40-minute film on DVD

k A viewer's guide to help you plan how you'll teach

about the Selma-to-Montgomery marches, the
Voting Rights Act of 1965 and voting issues today
k A timeline of activities and events leading up to
and following the marches
k A map of Alabama illustrated with locations
significant to the voting rights struggle

Order Selma: The Bridge

to the Ballot today!
To receive a FREE Selma
film kit, order online at
Secret Agents

FA L L 2 0 1 7   19
“My simple kind acts have
made me a happier person.”
“KINDNESS,” MARK TWAIN said, “is Anonymity is a key element of the pro- more serious concern that their acts of
the language which the deaf can hear gram, as it shifts the focus from the self kindness might be rejected or that they
and the blind can see.” Acts of kind- to others and thus allows the “agents” might embarrass themselves.
ness, however small, also have a way of kindness to remove themselves from The next steps involve the stu-
of dissolving the barriers that isolate the equation—in effect, to become self- dents brainstorming anonymous acts
us within our own worldviews. In this less, which is the DNA of kindness. of kindness, or “jobs,” and selecting
way, kindness benefits both the giver Essentially, the program creates a Secret Agent names for themselves.
and the receiver. reverse-selfie effect: a camera facing out Mangahis provides a list of possible
It was an intrinsic understand- instead of facing in. Agents are able, in jobs but lets her students refine, add
ing of this concept that attracted Erin some cases for the first time, to see oth- to or delete from this list. The jobs the
Mangahis to Secret Kindness Agents, a ers when they hold up the lens. students create run the gamut of kind,
program founded by a fellow educator, Each year, Mangahis begins the pro- selfless acts. Some tasks are as simple as
Ferial Pearson. gram by showing Pearson’s TEDx Talk picking up trash around the school and
Mangahis has spent almost half her to the students and having a group holding open a classroom door. Others
life as a teacher and nearly all of those discussion about the program. “We require more effort, such as sharing
years teaching English language arts then write down a list of about 10 to lunch with someone the Secret Agent
at Patrick Henry High School in San 15 potential positive benefits of Secret might not ordinarily talk to or writing
Diego. She’s an astute observer of her Kindness Agents and also make a list of letters of appreciation to school staff
students’ ability to practice inclusive- the potential risks,” she says. members who are rarely recognized
ness and understanding of one anoth- Most students agree the program for their work.
er’s unique identities. And, as a scholar will make the school a more positive “One student made a job out of tak-
of written and verbal language, she has place. Their assessment of the risks ing his friends to a school sporting
always made it a priority to allow her ranges from worrying that their faces event—girls’ basketball—that doesn’t
students opportunities to deepen their might hurt from smiling too much to a get the support and crowds of other
vocabulary of awareness and empathy. sports,” Mangahis says. Other jobs have
When she learned about Pearson’s included making teacher-appreciation
program two years ago, Mangahis knew posters, placing positive messages on
Ferial Pearson is a nationally rec-
immediately that she wanted to imple- Post-its on bathroom mirrors and smil-
ognized and award-winning high
ment it in her own classroom. ing at everyone the Secret Agent sees.
school teacher and an instruc-
The jobs that take the Secret
tor in the Teacher Education
Recruiting Agents Agents far outside of their comfort
Department at the University of
The idea behind Secret Kindness Agents, zones—for example, striking up a con-
Nebraska Omaha. To learn more
which Pearson details in her TEDx Talk versation with somebody new—come
about Pearson and the Secret
and in a book she has written about the with the highest risk and vulnerabil-
Kindness Agents program, watch
program, is both simple and profound: ity. These are also the jobs with the
her TEDx Talk.
to perform an anonymous act of kind- highest rewards, notably the sheer
ness every day and, thereby, spread happiness of brightening someone
kindness throughout the community. else’s day.

20  T E AC H I N G TO L E R A N C E
Secret Agent
Steps to Kindness
After selecting their jobs and ver- Giving the students ownership of the
bally committing to honor the jobs they program and allowing them to decide on
are about to do, students perform their their own acts of kindness are integral
acts of kindness every day for a week. At to the program’s success, according to
the end of the week, they write reflec- Mangahis, who is quick to praise Pearson
tions on how their jobs have affected for designing Secret Kindness Agents to
them and those around them. They be very flexible and easy to adapt.
then select new jobs for the next week “It is extremely moldable and can be
and begin the process again. implemented at any grade,” she says. “It
“They become giddy with excite- transcends one teacher or one curricu- Step 1
ment for their jobs,” Mangahis says, lum, which is a big part of its beauty.” Write down a list of about 10 to
“and how much fun they are having. I This is also what allows anyone to 15 potential positive benefits
have been surprised by the ease they create a Secret Kindness Agents pro- of Secret Kindness Agents, and
had with the program and just how gram in their own community. “It’s a make a list of the potential risks.
much it has unified us and made us a discussion you can have with your kids
cohesive group.” or your book club, your family mem-
bers,” Mangahis says. “ You commit to
Kindness Spreads doing acts of kindness and talk about it
The effect of these acts of kindness on together. Sharing the experience radi-
the school community has been “tre- ates kindness that travels throughout
mendously positive,” Mangahis says. the community.”
After successfully piloting the pro- The kindness extended to others
gram with only her seniors in 2016, then moves forward on its own, creat-
she extended Secret Kindness Agents ing a ripple effect. Step 2
to her juniors the next year. “It helps As Amelia Lanning, another senior Have students brainstorm
them to become aware of and more sen- in Mangahis’ class, puts it, “My kind anonymous acts of kindness, or
sitive to the needs of others. They see acts are not just one ripple but a rock jobs, and select Secret Agent
beyond themselves, and it reframes skipping on water, radiating good deeds names for themselves.
their view of the world.” to multiple people who can also create
Bella Franco, a senior in Mangahis’ those ripples.
class, took her participation to a whole “Secret Kindness Agents have taken
new level in an act of meta-kindness. my shallow attitude and narrow mind
Mangahis keeps a Twitter board in the into something much greater. I would
classroom—a hard-copy version of the go day to day keeping to myself and
social media site—and Bella created a only thinking about waking up and
page for that board, which she called getting my day over with,” Amelia
The Henry Effect. reflects. “After being a part of the Secret
“I followed the most random peo- Kindness Agents, I have developed an Step 3
ple from Patrick Henry [High School] overall sense of happiness. I enjoy wak- Once students select their jobs and
that I’ve only talked to a few times, or ing up every day in hopes that I will verbally commit to honor those
some who showed great enthusiasm make someone’s day. Noticed or not, jobs, have them perform their acts
and empathy toward others on campus,” my simple kind acts have made me a of kindness every day for a week.
Bella says. “I then posted a picture of the happier person.”
student and a short caption acknowl-
edging and appreciating their kind acts.” Ginsberg is an award-winning author,
In this way, Bella followed kindness book reviewer, workshop leader and
with kindness, and paying it forward contributor to NPR’s All Things
filled her with joy. Considered. She lives and writes in San
“Once I started my acts of kindness, Diego, California.
I started feeling complete,” she says. “I
felt happy and I felt that I gained hap- This story was written in partnership
piness by making others happy.” with the anti-hate news project 500 Pens. Step 4
At the end of the week, have
students write reflections on
how their jobs have 21
FA L L affected

them and those around them.





WHEN THE U.S. SUPREME COURT RULED Governor Orval Faubus, who ignited carry out their assigned tasks.” But the
in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) the Little Rock school desegregation actions of the soldiers, who did noth-
that segregated education was uncon- crisis in September 1957 by sending ing to disperse a furious mob of whites,
stitutional, segregationists rallied to the Arkansas National Guard to the exposed the governor’s claims as false,
maintain separate schools. In Little city’s flagship white secondary school, making clear that he had sent them
Rock, Arkansas—and in other com- Central High School. solely to prevent nine black students
munities throughout the South—well- “The mission of the State Militia from registering for classes.
heeled whites established a chap- is to maintain or restore order and to The governor’s blatant disregard
ter of the White Citizens’ Council to protect the lives and property of citi- for the authority of the U.S. Supreme
intimidate black parents and pres- zens,” insisted Faubus the day before Court compelled President Dwight D.
sure white elected officials into block- school started. “They will act not as Eisenhower to act. With great reluctance,
ing desegregation efforts. They suc- segregationists or integrationists, the president federalized the Arkansas
ceeded in winning over Arkansas but as soldiers called to active duty to National Guard and sent paratroopers

22  T E AC H I N G TO L E R A N C E
from the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne The coalition of black activists, law- prolonged segregated education by
Division to escort the Little Rock Nine yers, businesspeople, parents and stu- placing the burden of desegregation
to and from school and between classes. dents who had led the initial school on black families.
Sixty years later, Central High is desegregation charge eventually forced When given the option, white families
nothing like it once was. In fact, it is the reopening of Little Rock’s public never chose to send their children to his-
the exact opposite. Today, it is an exem- schools. However, segregated education torically all-black schools. Most contin-
plar of school integration. The student persisted. The city’s gradual desegrega- ued to balk at desegregation, vehemently
demographic closely reflects the com- tion plan meant that only seven black opposing any and all efforts, such as bus-
munity’s population, and student suc- students attended Central High School ing, designed to diversify student popu-
cess belies the myths often used to jus- that year. At the same time, increasing lations. They also continued to leave
tify segregation. numbers of white parents pulled their public schools for the rapidly expanding
But Central High School is unlike children out of the public school sys- network of private white schools, such
most schools across the country, which
remain rigidly segregated by race. It is
even unlike most schools in the Little
over by the state in 2015 because of prob-
lems stemming directly from the per- AVAILABLE EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES, REDUCED RACIAL
sistence of segregation.
The reason for Central High School’s
success is no mystery. It is the result of
several decades of intense grassroots
organizing in the face of extreme resis- tem, sending them instead to one of as Heritage Christian School, which,
tance to school desegregation, resis- the growing number of private white according to its founding pastor, was
tance that continues to keep schools academies that had sprung up since established “to combat the ‘moral pol-
in Arkansas (and just about everywhere the school desegregation crisis began. lution’ in public schools.”
else in the country) largely segregated The pace of school desegregation Despite the slow pace of progress,
by race. The history of Central High picked up over the next few years, proponents of school desegregation
is, therefore, a blueprint for change, a spurred in large part by the 1964 Civil kept fighting for change. They knew
roadmap pointing the way toward bet- Rights Act and federal court orders that segregated schools created unequal
ter schools and a more hopeful future. requiring compliance with Brown. opportunities and perpetuated racial
Still, it remained painfully slow. Feeble hierarchies. They also understood
Historical Resistance to Desegregation desegregation plans compelling stu- that desegregated schools provided
While Eisenhower’s bold move ended dents to choose which schools to attend access to the best available educational
riotous behavior on the part of white
protesters outside Central High School,
it did not keep white students from
violently harassing the black students
attempting to learn inside. It also did
nothing to keep white elected officials

from continuing to fight school deseg-

regation. In a move as daring as the
president’s, Governor Faubus—acting
under new authority granted to him by
the state legislature—closed all of the
public schools in Little Rock for the
1958–59 school year, a period that came
to be known as the “Lost Year.”
The Arkansas National Guard, under order from
Governor Orval Faubus, blocks Minnijean Brown
and her fellow students from entering Central
High School.

FA L L 2 0 1 7   23
resources, reduced racial prejudice and than tripled.” Indeed, fully one-third of based on race for the past 50 years
increased comfort with diversity. African-American and Latino students by maintaining an all-black middle
Their determination paid off. In now attend such schools. Making mat- school and high school on the African-
recent years, Little Rock Central’s stu- ters worse, these schools tend to serve American side of town, and a histor-
dent population has been 58 percent communities with high poverty levels, ically white middle school and high
black, 30 percent white, 8 percent Asian isolating resource-poor students. Not school on the white side. The court
and 4 percent Hispanic; the school has surprisingly, this kind of racial and eco- ordered the immediate consolidation
also been among Arkansas’ best per- nomic segregation produces low stu- of the schools so that student popula-
forming in terms of graduation rates dent performance. tion ratios would be nearly identical to
and achievement on standardized tests. It is no mystery why segregated edu- that of Little Rock’s Central High.
“This is my school,” said black student cation has persisted in most places and
Malik Marshall a few years back when has gotten worse in others. Above all Beyond the South
he was enrolled there. “I love it here.” else, racism and poverty have bedev- Outside the South, where federal courts
But things have been far from per- iled desegregation efforts. A recent have been far less involved, segregated
fect at Central. “We’re desegregated,” report on the state of public educa- education has proven equally intracta-
said Marshall, referring to the fact tion published by the Government ble. In fact, major metropolitan areas

that racial divisions were plain to see Accountability Office found, “While like New York City now have the igno-


inside the school. “We’re not integrated much has changed in public educa- minious distinction of setting the stan-
because integration comes from the tion in the decades following this land- dard for school segregation. To a great
heart of the people that go here. … It’s mark decision and subsequent legisla- extent, this reflects patterns of resi-
something that you have to want to do,” tive action, research has shown that dential housing segregation, arrange-
he added. some of the most vexing issues affect- ments created by racially discrimina-
Desegregation, though, is the neces- ing children and their access to edu- tory local, state and federal housing, and
sary starting point for integration, and cational excellence and opportunity urban planning policies dating back to
few schools have made this long, ardu- today are inextricably linked to race the New Deal. Housing and urban plan-
ous journey as successfully. The ques- and poverty.” ning policies have historically been
tion, then, is why is Central High such designed to preserve and promote seg-
an anomaly? In the South regated schools. But the persistence of
In the deepest parts of Dixie, in small segregated education outside the South
Beyond Central High towns and rural communities, oppo- also reflects educational policies—such
By almost every measure, segregated sition to school desegregation by as New York City’s eighth-grade school
education has been spreading and white elected officials has endured. In choice plan—that have concentrated
deepening. Researchers at UCLA’s Cleveland, Mississippi, a town of 12,000 students in intensely segregated schools.
Civil Rights Project have found that in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, a Regardless of region, opposition to
over the last 25 years, “intensely seg- federal district court ruled in 2016 that integrated schools by white families
regated nonwhite schools with zero to the school board had been intention- has not only made it difficult to deseg-
10 percent white enrollment have more ally operating a dual education system regate schools but also seemingly

24  T E AC H I N G TO L E R A N C E
impossible to maintain integrated has already defunded “Open Doors, public schools will be neither quick nor
ones. White families continue to leave Expanding Opportunities,” a grant easy. “We live in a complex multiracial
desegregated public schools for white program that provided school dis- society with woefully inadequate knowl-
private schools and relocate to commu- tricts with up to $12 million to improve edge and little support for constructive
nities, usually in the suburbs, that still socio-economic diversity within their policies geared toward equalizing oppor-
have nearly all-white public schools. schools. Republican state legislatures tunity, raising achievement and high
“If parents can’t get over race or have also proven unfriendly to deseg- school completion rates for all groups,
class, they’re not going to put their regation efforts by promoting school and helping students learn how to live
kids in our schools,” explained Michael voucher programs that The Century and work successfully in a society com-
Hinojosa, the superintendent of the Foundation has found “serve a dispro- posed of multiple minorities,” explains
Dallas, Texas, school system, which portionate percentage of white and Myron Orfield, the director of the
is 93 percent African American and wealthy students.” Institute for Metropolitan Opportunity.
Latino and more than 90 percent low The fact that there will be resistance
income. And this reality is important: The Way Forward and setbacks, both locally and nation-
“Every major city in America has to Although ending school segrega- ally, is a crucial lesson learned from the
find some way to deal with this issue,” tion is clearly a complicated goal with school desegregation struggle at Little



Hinojosa added. “When you have a mix many obstacles, it is far from impossi- Today, Central High School is an exemplar of
of kids, the affluent kids don’t suffer and ble. Parental choice is important, but it school integration, but its success is not typical of
desegregation efforts in other parts of the United
the children of intergenerational pov- must be controlled as it is in Louisville
States—or even of other schools in Little Rock.
erty do better.” so white people cannot choose their way
out of desegregation. And choice must Rock’s Central High School. But the
Modern Pushback be granted early. Starting in the eighth fight for educational equality that has
Remedying school segregation has grade, the policy in New York City, is taken place at Central over the last 60
become substantially more difficult eight grades too late. Special-emphasis years also teaches us that school deseg-
in recent years. The U.S. Supreme schools should be used to attract col- regation is possible and, when achieved,
Court is no longer an ally in the strug- lege-educated, middle- and upper-in- benefits everyone. Indeed, Little Rock
gle to desegregate the nation’s schools, come white families back to the public is an essential reminder of how far the
having invalidated voluntary school schools, as is being done in Dallas, but nation has come since nine black stu-
desegregation plans in Louisville, not at the expense of African-American, dents needed members of the 101st
Kentucky, and Seattle, Washington, Latino and lower-income students, Airborne to escort them to school. It is
in 2007 because the plans consid- who gain no benefit if displaced. And an equally important reminder of how

ered race in pupil assignments— socio-economic criteria should figure far the nation has to go before all stu-
which is, quite obviously, the sim- prominently in pupil-placement for- dents, regardless of race or income, have
plest and surest way to guarantee mulas, a shift that has proven effective equal access to quality education.
racially diverse schools. Neither is the in maintaining racially diverse schools in
U.S. Department of Education under Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina. Jeffries is an associate professor of
the Trump Administration, which Fully desegregating the nation’s history at The Ohio State University.

Listen and reflect on the words of Terrance Roberts, one of the Little Rock Nine.
visit » tolerance.org/tool/little-rock-60 FA L L 2 0 1 7   25
EARLY IN THE 2016-17 SCHOOL YEAR, such as anxiety, fear and illnesses, school because bullying made them feel
DeMarcus*—a fifth-grader in directly tied to the bullying they expe- unsafe. The grand total: $276,133,055 in
Montgomery, Alabama—had his first rience. Those absences, compounded a single school year.
encounter with bullying. with other negative effects of bullying, “I know people might say that it’s
His grandmother, Erma Freeman, cost students and teachers precious California, so of course the number is
knew DeMarcus as a strong-willed classroom time and also have a little-re- large. But I don’t know of a school sys-
kid and initially did not worry much alized financial impact on schools. tem, even one that large, that can take a
about the incident. She told DeMarcus $276 million hit to its budget, especially
to either brush it off or to stand up to Bullying Costs Schools when the problem can be addressed,”
the bullies. As a June 2017 study out of The Russell says.
But within a matter of weeks, University of Texas at Austin illus- The study also found that more than
Freeman found herself bribing trates, bullying has potentially huge 45 percent of students who missed
DeMarcus to go to school, scheduling economic costs to schools. The main school days did so because they felt
counseling appointments for him and finding of the study, which looked at unsafe due to bias-associated bullying
making frequent trips to the school and California’s public K-12 institutions: against their race, gender, disability, reli-
the central office to try and get help. Schools may lose more than a quar- gion or sexual orientation. That totaled
The bullying continued. By late ter-billion dollars annually due to bul- 630,751 days of absences in a school year.
November, DeMarcus, who has epi- lying-related absenteeism. The cause for alarm should not
lepsy, began having seizures again— Stephen Russell, chair of human begin or stop at the dollar line; students
his first in three years. development and family sciences at UT are avoiding going to school as a direct
After his 10th seizure in just a few Austin, led the study. Russell is one of result of bullying—almost half of which
weeks and numerous missed school the country’s foremost experts on bul- targets their identities. That fact alone
days, Freeman decided it was better lying and anti-bullying programs. He should be enough to spur schools and
for her grandson to be homeschooled. points out that California, like several districts to action.
In all, she estimates DeMarcus missed other states and the federal govern- But a discussion of the lost funds
at least 15 days of classes due to the bul- ment, base funding on per-pupil daily does have its place. “What it does is pro-
lying he experienced. attendance—not enrollment. For this vide a financial incentive for those who
DeMarcus is not alone. Across the reason, it was fairly straightforward for might need one,” Russell says. “I see this
United States, students miss thousands Russell and his colleagues to calculate as evidence and data that can be used by
of school days each year due to issues, the economic costs of students avoiding those who are searching for help.”


FA L L 2 0 1 7   27
Pointing to the Numbers In Alabama, where DeMarcus seemed completely overwhelmed by the
Pointing to the economic costs of bul- attends school, the financial ramifi- problem. They had no answer for me.”
lying—in tandem with highlighting the cations of bullying could be an atten- Lewis recognizes the statewide
psychological, physiological and aca- tion-grabber to motivate the stakehold- issues and knows that, even more than
demic ramifications—can be an effec- ers who control the purse strings and money, she needs motivated and ded-
tive way to garner high-level attention dictate policy. icated people to turn the tide. But the
and spur positive change. As a program coordinator in urgency doesn’t seem to be catching
“I think there are a number of the Alabama State Department on. Many administrators who work on
financial factors that aren’t usually of Education’s Office of Learning anti-bullying efforts will find their expe-
considered when we discuss bully- Support, Marilyn Lewis is in charge riences mirrored in Lewis’ situation.
ing,” says Pete Price, director of social of the state’s anti-bullying programs. “It is my experience over a number
and emotional learning for the Austin The results these programs yield are of years that money alone doesn’t solve
Independent School District in Texas far from encouraging. a thing,” Lewis says. “What solves prob-
and a former principal. “Certainly, we A 2016 WalletHub analysis of data lems is involvement by dedicated peo-
know that bullying causes students to collected from a number of reports and ple who truly want to fix the issues. I do
miss class time, which affects budgets. surveys found Alabama to be the eighth- believe it’s possible that this data could
But what about parents who are forced worst state in the country for prevalence be a tremendous help in that regard.”
to miss work to stay home with the kids of bullying and the fifth-worst state for
or hire some form of day care? The cost high school-age suicide attempts in The Bottom Line Is More Than a Figure
of counseling?” which bullying was a known factor. If a desire to stop the loss of money
“I think this is a very powerful tool “I’d believe that,” says Freeman when serves as motivation for lawmakers
when it comes to state legislatures,” informed of those statistics. “The peo- and school officials to make bullying
Price adds. ple at the school and the central office prevention a priority, it could spur

28  T E AC H I N G TO L E R A N C E *Name has been changed to protect privacy

When Schools Miss
“I don’t know of a statewide school the Bias in Bullying
system that can take a $276 million According to Stephen Russell,
there is scientific evidence that
hit to its budget, especially when anti-bullying programs are more
effective when tailored to the
the problem can be addressed.” needs of the school. “We know
that the more personal the involve-
ment, the more specific the focus,
the level of involvement necessary to “Whatever they did had no impact the better the results,” he says.
implement more successful anti-bul- whatsoever, and I think it’s because In Alabama, where public edu-
lying programs in more schools. they took the attitude most of the time cation funding is historically tight,
Bullying interventions play a cru- that, ‘Oh, that’s just how boys act some- school districts have few options
cial role in addressing harmful student times,’” Freeman says. “But when it’s when it comes to selecting materi-
behaviors and building positive school making a child sick and a doctor is tell- als—videos, training programs, lit-
climates, but the type of intervention is ing you that it’s making him sick, you erature and so forth—for anti-bul-
a critical factor for success. got to do something more.” lying efforts. Most available
Most districts across the coun- Russell hopes the cost-analysis com- materials offer a generic corrective
try, particularly in low-income and ponent of his research could bolster sup- approach and fail to address the
rural areas, either use no anti-bully- port for “something more.” Price agrees, specific root cause of bullying: bias.
ing program or rely on the free pro- and he believes the data could be partic- Decades of studies and medical
gram provided by the U.S. Department ularly useful when districts or schools research indicate that the majority
of Education. While Lewis says the are arguing to prevent losing counselors, of bullying today stems from a
one-size-fits-all programs are well put who are usually first on the chopping personal bias and is targeted at
together, she admits the limitations of block during budget cuts. Combining one characteristic or factor.
the generic model. “There’s not much Russell’s data with additional scientific “It could be racial- or gender-
variation, and what I’ve found is that our studies that show the effects of bullying based; it could be related to a
[low-income] and rural schools need on mental and physical health as well person’s sexuality,” Russell says.
very different types of programs because as academic performance could make “But it’s focused at something.
they experience very different issues.” counselors less expendable. And the data we have now shows
In his research, Russell has noticed “We already knew from years of sci- without a doubt that if you tackle
that many of the anti-bullying pro- entific research that bullying and the the root causes, your programs are
grams in the country fail to address associated fears cause certain chemi- far more successful.”
the focus of bullying. Instead of tai- cal reactions in the brain—the release Ideally, bullying programs that
loring programs to target the primary of cortisol—that all but prevent a stu- address bias are implemented
root cause—specific biases related to dent from learning,” Price says. “This along with curricular and school
race, religion, sexual orientation and so data shows the financial impact of this climate initiatives that carry the
forth—they treat bullying as one gen- problem. I think it’s very likely that it same message. Reading diverse
eral problem that can be solved through could be used to convince some people texts, seeing people from multiple
“don’t be naughty” lessons. (See side- that counselors and more comprehen- identity groups on posters and bul-
bar for more on bias-based bullying.) sive [anti-bullying] programs are not letin boards and hearing inclusive
That was true in DeMarcus’ case. just helpful but necessary.” values articulated in multiple set-
Most of the bullying in his case was tings can all contribute to an envi-
directed toward his weight but the Moon is an award-winning investiga- ronment where bullying happens
school never specifically addressed tive reporter and columnist. He lives and less, upstanding happens more and
that, his grandmother recalls. writes in Montgomery, Alabama. students feel welcome at school.

FA L L 2 0 1 7   29

IT’S THE WINTER OF 2017. My seventh-grade ELA students and I just finished a unit on stories of resilience
and resistance. We read speeches from César Chávez and Martin Luther King and poems from Junot Díaz,
Francisco X. Alarcón and Sherman Alexie. We watched videos about Standing Rock and #BlackLivesMatter.
We discussed the power of nonviolent resistance and community-building. And we connected historic strug-
gles with current oppressions. ¶ My students engaged deeply with the curriculum, openly discussed and lis-
tened to each other’s ideas, made connections with their own experiences as young people living in south-
west Detroit. ¶ On the last day of our unit, I sat in my school’s cafeteria as my students collaboratively hosted
our capstone project: a “student speak-out” for their families and the school staff. They shared poems, sto-
ries and reflections, all calling out against injustices. ¶ As I watched my students display profound courage
and wisdom through their stories, I kept thinking, “You can’t standardize this.” Regardless of what the state
data says, regardless of their test scores and their English language proficiencies, my students are brilliant
and they have something important to say. I sat in the cafeteria, beaming with pride.

30 T E AC H I N G TO L E R A N C E
This story from my own teaching
experience served as a catalyst for me
“This narrative does not recognize the hard
to challenge oversimplified and defi- work our students do every day, and it does not
cit-narratives of Detroit schools. Yes,
in far too many systemic and institu- recognize the teachers who have built careers
tional ways, Detroit schools are failing and lives around the success of Detroit students.”
our students. Issues that are common
to urban districts—lack of resources,
high turnover rates, poor school con-
ditions, etc.—are exacerbated in Detroit January 2016. (The Detroit Federation classrooms—supportive communities
because of its history and context. And of Teachers ultimately filed a lawsuit filled with successes, relentless deter-
despite the narrative of the city of against the district.) mination and care—are not.
Detroit being “reborn,” its schools and Even this brief overview of Detroit
its neighborhoods, filled with people schools’ recent history demonstrates Resisting Racist and Classist Narratives
who’ve been here for generations, con- the extent to which policy and admin- Brian Diskin has taught social studies
tinue to be stripped of resources. istrative decisions have led to existing in Detroit Public Schools for 25 years.
Detroit public schools have, for inequities and a blatant disregard for I first met Brian at a Detroit education
example, experienced a dramatic children in Detroit. These realities have justice panel series. In a subsequent
decline in student population—from created a static narrative of our schools interview I asked him what he likes
156,000 public school students in 2002 as uniformly failing and undermine the about teaching in Detroit.

to 44,000 today. The city’s shrinking actual work that is happening in our “The kids,” he says. “The kids are
numbers are only partially responsi- classrooms. This narrative does not rec- enthusiastic, the kids are challenging,
ble for this decline; school choice poli- ognize the hard work our students do they are funny; they will surprise you
cies and the unregulated expansion of every day, and it does not recognize the at every opportunity; they’re smart,
charter schools pushed an enormous teachers who have built careers and lives they’re kind, they’re capable.” That
number of students out of the public around the success of Detroit students. pride quickly translated into Brian shar-
district. Detroit schools have also been As a result of my own frustrations as ing a string of impressive feats his stu-
marred by corruption scandals, and stu- a teacher in Detroit, I decided to talk dents have accomplished over the years,
dents and staff have suffered from atro- with other educators in the city, lis- from Ivy League acceptance to national
cious school conditions, which led to a ten to their stories, and build a more choir awards to professional intern-
#SupportDPSteachers Twitter cam- nuanced narrative of Detroit schools. ships. But he also commented that these
paign and district-wide “sick-outs” in While our schools may be failing, our stories are a “hard sell” in Detroit news.

FA L L 2 0 1 7   31
“For the normal news lineup, you’ve
got five or six turmoil or violent stories,
you’ve got the political blunder of the
day, you’ve got only two square inches
for local news, but these sort of stories
aren’t often out there,” he says. “But
you’ve got all of these things that are
thriving in our school, and I suspect
many, many more schools throughout
the district.”
The tension between these deficit
narratives about the city’s students
juxtaposed with Brian’s positive experi-
ences of teaching in Detroit is not new.
Brian, whose family left Detroit for the
suburbs during the white flight of the
1970s, recalls his process of returning
to the city as a teacher in the 1990s.
“I remember the look of horror on Matthew Homrich-Knieling
people’s face when I told them I was
leaving the suburbs and I was going
to teach in Detroit,” he says. People
assumed his teaching career in Detroit “Unless you’ve spent some time around DPS kids,
would be temporary, a mere stepping
stone toward attaining a “real job.”
you don’t know what they’re like. So try not to
Brian remembers hearing phrases like, label them, because in the future that limits them.”
“If you can teach there, you can teach
anywhere” and “You won’t be teaching;
you’ll just be babysitting.”
Twenty-five years later, Detroit Redefining “Success” Despite the successes that teachers
teachers still hear this sort of rhetoric. After a 13-year career as an engineer like Janine, Brian, and I see in our stu-
When I was applying to teaching jobs, in “corporate America,” Janine Scott dents every day, our schools are per-
I regularly heard that I was “brave” and decided to pursue her lifelong passion sistently labeled as “low-performing.”
that Detroit “might be a good place to of becoming an educator. She has since As a mathematician, however, Janine
start, until something better comes up.” taught mathematics at Detroit Public understands that standardized test
These sentiments are rooted in racist Schools on the city’s eastside for 14 scores don’t always capture applied
and classist ideology that says teaching years. I met Janine after I came across learning. She shared a story about a for-
poor black and brown kids isn’t actually a compelling and inspiring video of her mer student, who now attends Western
teaching; it’s practicing your teaching created by the Skillman Foundation Michigan University, enthusiasti-
skills for when you get a job in a white, and ChalkBeat Detroit. cally contacting her to share that the
affluent district. Janine’s unabashed love and care work in her college-level mathematics
Brian concluded our conversation for her students and their
with this request. humanity was at the center
“Unless you’ve spent some time of our conversation and
around DPS kids, you don’t know what lives at the center of
they’re like. So try not to label them,
because in the future that limits them; at
her pedagogy. “When
you love them and let
156K The student population
of Detroit public schools

declined by 112,000
some point they’re going to come up to a them know that you students between 2002
hiring manager, and that manager may care about their lives and 2016.
have in their minds some preconceived and you are truly sin- 44K
notions about Detroit kids. But they will cere—they will work for
surprise you at every opportunity.” you,” she says.

32  T E AC H I N G TO L E R A N C E
courses was the same work from “Ms.
Scott’s” pre-calculus class.
“Stories like this happen fre-
quently,” Janine added, “And they tell
me that I’m teaching them the skills
they need to make it.”
Though Detroit teachers are met
with unjust challenges, Janine rec-
ognizes that, “The kids are never the
problem.” And in so many cases in
Detroit, the teachers, like Janine, aren’t
the problem either.

Transformative Educational Experiences

Recognizing that educational rhet-
oric dehumanizes Detroit students,
I also talked with students about Janine Scott
their perspectives, including Dannah
Wilson, a 2017 graduate of Detroit
schools. Dannah was a member of oppression in our school
the 482Forward educational justice system demonstrates how
youth collective and author of a speech the rhetoric around “fail-
responding to Betsy DeVos’ nomi- ing urban schools” not only
nation that went viral. She attended ignores the work that hap-
seven different schools throughout pens in classrooms each
her K-12 education. With each deci- day, but how that narrative
sion to change schools, however, is intentionally constructed
Dannah explained that “it was never to uphold power and privi-
the teachers.” lege. Dannah explains how
In high school, Dannah says her her teachers not only helped
history teacher strayed from the text- her and her peers to see
book because he recognized its lack of these structures, but taught
relevance. Instead, he shifted toward them to “see ourselves well
a more culturally-sustaining peda- enough to ask, ‘How do I fit
gogy, teaching African history and into changing the things I’m
then Detroit history. Similarly, in passionate about and the
her English class, they read Michelle things I’ve struggled with to Brian Diskin
Alexander’s The New Jim Crow while make it better?’” That’s the
watching the Netflix documentary 13th, sort of transformative edu-
both about the history and impact of cational experiences that happen in Detroit teachers and students: Your
mass incarceration. Reflecting on these Detroit but become erased from the work is important, your work is valid and
experiences, Dannah came to the con- general public. I recognize your worth. Let’s continue
clusion that “the education system isn’t My purpose in sharing these stories to use our voices and our classrooms
failing; it’s doing exactly what it was is not to distract from the serious and to highlight that work, to highlight our
designed to do. The system is working pressing work that we need to be engag- successes and our communities, and to
to fail the students, especially in urban ing in around educational justice and demand justice in our schools.
communities, which we know happen equity; rather, my purpose is to demand
to be the most affordable communities a more nuanced and humanizing nar- Homrich-Knieling teaches seventh-
for black and brown students and fam- rative around schooling in Detroit and grade English language arts in south-
ilies to live.” in other urban districts, one that rec- west Detroit. The views expressed in this
This profound understanding of ognizes the value of the students and article are his own and do not necessarily
systemic and institutional racism and the teachers in the classroom each day. reflect the views of his employer.

FA L L 2 0 1 7   33

“I WILL ALWAYS, without mitigation, and without any ease, utterly hate my external body,” says Maggie
O’Leary, a graduate student at Cornell University. “I learned when I was very young that I couldn’t use
the entire length of my legs when I walk, for example, because that meant a very audible, noticeable
displacement of my weight … [and] opened my body up to being viewed in ways that were perhaps even
more cruel than a general ‘look, fat, look away’ encounter with someone else’s gaze.”
The childhood stigma O’Leary experienced—and the way it shaped her long-term relationship to
her body—is not unique. Americans devote a tremendous amount of energy and anxiety to the topic
of fatness, real or imagined. We are constantly bombarded with obesity statistics and told how fat we
have become. Advertisements show the latest fad diets and champion products promising to make us
thinner, more fit, healthier and—theoretically—happier.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines obesity as “having excess body fat,”
as determined by body mass index (BMI). The American Medical Association officially classified obe-
sity as a disease in the midst of a decades-long public-health scare about the state of body size and its
relationship to health, often dubbed the “obesity epidemic.” Few aspects of this supposed epidemic
seem to stir the public as much as the dreaded childhood obesity. According to the CDC, the propor-
tion of school-age children with obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s and hovers at around
20 percent today. The organization names obesity as one of the 10 most important public-health con-
cerns facing the country.
However, mounting evidence suggests that the connection between body size and health is not as
clear as many people assume. Moreover, our collective obsession with that connection—and the stigma
associated with it—may spawn an entirely separate set of problems.


FA L L 2 0 1 7   35
Children and schools are Maybe he won’t speak up next
not immune to these problems. time, and I won’t have to deal with
Children may suffer, as O’Leary this as a result.’”
did, the negative effects of fat
stigma long after their tenure as The Long-term Effects
K-12 students has ended. of Fat Stigma
Enduring weight-related bully-
Fat Stigma in Schools ing as a child isn’t just a child-
A spate of recent research shows hood issue; it can lead to inter-
that obese children and adoles- nalized stigma and destructive
cents suffer from lower self-es- behaviors much later in life.
teem, self-worth, wages and A 2017 study co-authored by
quality of life than their thinner Rebecca Puhl of the Rudd Center
counterparts. for Food Policy and Obesity
But obesity itself isn’t the shows that weight teasing and
mitigating variable; fat stigma is. bullying in adolescence may not
Fat stigma is driven by a soci- only lead to higher BMIs 15 years
ety that conflates size and health later but also to such dangerous
and uses size to define individual behaviors as extreme dieting and
self-control and worth. Ashanté induced vomiting.
Reese, an assistant professor The story of New York native
of anthropology at Spelman Jewel Brooks speaks directly to
College, says that obesity often WHY “FAT”? The word fat has a long history of this phenomenon. Bullied for
reads as a “visible marker of fail- negative connotations. We choose to use it in allyship her weight as a child, Brooks
ure,” even for children—a “fail- with fat-positive activists and others who seek to remove began using diet pills as an adult
ure” that many people extend to the stigma associated with large body types. to manage her perception of her
parents as well. own weight. She says that the
Fat stigma is also an insti- appearance of health and main-
tutional phenomenon that can lead schools respond to anti-fat bullying by taining her weight have become more
well-intentioned educators to engage in students’ peers. James*, now an adult important than actual healthy behav-
ineffective, even dangerous practices. It working as an engineer, was bullied iors. “It’s like it’s a phantom of health. If
influences how teachers and administra- because of his weight as a child, but he I eat these Zantrex pills, Lipozene and
tors attempt to govern fat children with does not harbor resentments against all these types of things before I eat
policy. For example, in 2004, Arkansas his former peers. Instead, he laments everything, then I can still eat like a fat
implemented a statewide program in how the school system responded to kid, like when I was 10, but then I don’t
which every student’s report card would his victimization. “The problem is have the consequences of it anymore,”
include a BMI indicator and a rating of when the administration absolutely she explains. “It’s the performance of
whether the child was “normal,” “at-risk” refuses to do anything about it and health. It’s not actually healthy.”
or “overweight”—essentially a fat report instead penalizes and further ostra- Maggie O’Leary still struggles with
card—with encouragement that fami- cizes the person on the receiving end of her self-perception as a result of the
lies of overweight children seek medical the abuse,” he reflects. “I feel like that’s stigma she’s experienced through-
assistance on their behalf. where the majority of the damage came out her life. “I hate the way [my body]
Ultimately, the program failed. “It from in that situation.” looks,” she says. “I hate the way it hates
didn’t help [the children] lose weight. The bullying was so intense that airplanes. I hate the way it refuses
It didn’t make them healthier,” Reese James worked to graduate from high placement. I hate the way it fills and
notes. “And then it also increases school early and escape his isolation. distends clothing. I hate it because I
stigma, but not only just stigma for the Not only did his educators not address have been told so often and so loudly
children … [but also] stigma for the the bullying, they also silenced him. that I simply must hate it.” 
parents, and then even more explicit “[They] just wanted the problem to From destructive behaviors to low
stigma for single-parent households.” go away so they just threw me in deten- self-esteem to discrimination, the
In some cases, educators’ biases tion,” James says. The prevailing message known negative effects of fat stigma
against fat students also affect how he got as a result? “‘Oh, he’s in detention. should cause significant concern and

36  T E AC H I N G TO L E R A N C E
calls for intervention. Schools are crit- overhear educators speaking negatively Health, were based on guidance from
ical sites in the movement to reduce about their own bodies and internalize health care workers who “reject both
fat stigma because these issues so those negative messages. the use of weight, size, or BMI as prox-
often begin with stigma experienced Second, schools must change policies ies for health, and the myth that weight
in childhood. that unfairly target fat students—even is a choice.” This approach is compatible
More often, though, the focus indirectly. One example is dress codes. with multiple models of health, which
remains on fatness itself. Brooks recalls being told by adults that Ashanté Reese calls on schools to adopt.
her clothes were “inappropriate” when “[We] are so focused on physical health
Reducing Fat Stigma she was as young as 9 years old. that we disconnect it from mental and
Reducing fat stigma in schools requires “My shorts were inappropriate spiritual and other forms of health and
a multipronged approach that func- because I had too much thigh out; wellness,” she points out.
tions at the interpersonal, school pol- they’re too high,” she says. “They don’t Finally, it is important for students
icy and societal levels. come to the knee—maybe it’s about to see people of all sizes engaging in a
First, educators must speak care- mid-thigh—but because my thighs are variety of activities without stigma and
fully about body size and fatness. It is bigger, it’s being seen as being fast.” without being pigeonholed into certain
especially important to avoid the idea Similarly, school dress codes that point social roles based on weight. Given the
that it is students’ responsibility to to fit, length and tightness dispropor- negative health and social effects of
lose weight to help reduce the stigma tionately target certain students, par- anti-fat attitudes, internalized and
they experience. Studies show that ticularly girls and fat students. otherwise, positive depictions of peo-
weight loss does not necessarily lead Third, while schools still hold a ple of all sizes may go a long way toward
to better self-esteem among students. responsibility to teach students healthy improving the overall health of fat peo-
Furthermore, suggesting to students habits, they must decouple discussions of ple—and toward reducing our collec-
that weight loss will end their torment health from discussions of weight. They tive misplaced obsession with weight.
unfairly blames them for the harm can do this by incorporating Health at
that other people inflict on them. It’s Every Size principles, which, according Reece is an assistant professor of sociol-
also critical to note that students may to the Association for Size Diversity and ogy at the University of Texas at Austin.

“But It’s Unhealthy!”

Despite how common it is to connect fatness with negative health outcomes, the evidence of that connection is, at best,
mixed. Some studies even suggest that overweight people live longer, healthier lives, especially the elderly. In a 2015 paper,
Braiden Hellec, a doctoral pharmacy student, and his colleagues at the University of Alberta in Edmonton reported little
increase in the risk of mortality for people living at most body sizes. The only increases they found were at the far extremes, in
people who were either severely underweight or severely overweight.
According to Daniel Goldberg, an associate professor in the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at the University of
Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, “There are probably more important factors for improving population health and com-
pressing health inequalities than looking at the size of people’s bodies and trying to decrease them,” he says. “Of course there
are extremes of any body size, which are bad for people, but that’s not what we’re talking about when we expand the goal-
posts of BMI and all of a sudden everybody’s huge and fat and death is stalking everybody.”
The legitimacy of an obesity epidemic has been challenged by scholars across the fields of medicine, law and sociology,
most famously by Paul Campos in his 2004 book The Obesity Myth. But the perception of an obesity epidemic is enough to cre-
ate a widespread atmosphere of stigma for fat people, and a growing number of studies suggest that stigma may be responsi-
ble for more negative health outcomes than body size itself.
A 2014 study led by Janet Latner of the University of Hawaii at Manoa shows that BMI was correlated with negative phys-
ical health-related quality of life only for women with high-internalized weight bias. A 2013 study led by Matthew Pantell of the
University of California, San Francisco, compared the effect of social isolation to the more traditional risk factors of smoking, obesity,
high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The study found the mortality risk of social isolation was rivaled only by the risk of smoking.
Finally, a 2015 study co-authored by Angelina R. Sutin of Florida State University College of Medicine suggests that weight
discrimination is associated with poor health outcomes and increased mortality risk.

*Name has been changed to protect privacy FA L L 2 0 1 7   37


“IT HAS SWALLOWED up most of the guys in the senior class at my school. Every dis- alt-right. On one side is what Data &
cussion devolves into things like which girls are ‘feminazis,’ celebrities dating outside Society, a research institute focused
their ethnicity being ‘white genocide,’ and so on. … I’m genuinely scared that it’s going to on the intersection of technology and
spread to the point where I won’t have anyone I can talk to like a normal human being.” behavior, calls an “aggressive trolling
culture”—individuals who use inside
These words were written by a teenager meaning is vague, used as an umbrella jokes and hate speech to inspire anger.
to The American Conservative maga- term encompassing right-wing ideals at On the other side are new media per-
zine. The “it” he says has overtaken his odds with establishment conservatism sonalities and social media influencers
classmates: the so-called “alt-right”—a and multicultural society. who are spreading racist, anti-multi-
loosely-affiliated group whose teen- Keegan Hankes is an intelligence culturalist, anti-feminist propaganda.
friendly messaging inspired the spread analyst at the Southern Poverty Law These sides unite behind a nostalgia for
of fascist ideals among his friends. The Center who studies the alt-right. “The a past in which diversity wasn’t openly
group espouses beliefs so far outside animating grievance of the alt-right is embraced. They also share a disdain
the mainstream that their popularity is the same thing as white nationalism,” for what they perceive to be obstacles
causing widespread anxiety and alarm, Hankes says. “Concern over white iden- keeping them from “traditional” white
even to people who, like the young man tity, belief that Western civilization is masculine entitlements: racial and sex-
who wrote the email, embrace their crumbling, that liberal democracy has ual dominance and economic power.
right-wing identities. failed, and that a symptom of this fail- It wasn’t always this way. Dale Beran,
For educators, a more imminent ure is multiculturalism.” a comic book writer who has taught at
concern comes with the alt-right’s rise: Today, an online community com- both the middle school and college lev-
They’re recruiting. prised of entertainment-seeking trolls els, has closely followed online forums
and true white nationalists find them- like 4chan and others that gave birth to
Decoding the Alt-Right selves mingling within this amorphous many alt-right leaders, tactics and mes-
For the misunderstood, the misan- movement. This makes it difficult to saging. Beran says he has seen a funda-
thrope or for a person who simply feels land on a singular comprehensive defi- mental shift in the ideas expressed in
amiss, an “alternative” represents one nition of the alt-right. The term refers those forums over time.
of three things: a new path, a new plan to an ideological island that hosts (all “They kind of started out as trolls,
of action or a new reality. at once) a joke shop, a meme factory, and people who were making fun of
For Richard Spencer—who is quickly media influencers, a Neverland for the fact that they didn’t get out of
becoming the most visible white nation- lost boys who feel disempowered or a their mom’s basement or their life was
alist in the United States—“alternative” dangerous sociopolitical movement— not working out, or that they kind of
represented a chance to rebrand. depending on whom you ask. identified as losers,” Beran explains.
Spencer is often credited for coining Both contradiction and connec- “That slowly kind of transformed into
the term “alternative right” in 2008. Its tion define the different factions of the a political platform of taking your

Turn to page 40 for more information on key names and terms. FA L L 2 0 1 7   39

powerlessness and feeling empowered But this outreach is barely neces- time, young people seek emotional con-
by it using far-right ideology. Over time, sary. Alt-right outlets reach young nections to sources and, thanks to con-
the irony kind of melts away.” people through their phones. Unlike firmation bias and online algorithms,
What remains is messaging that the far-right leaders of yesteryear, alt- fall into echo chambers where their
teachers would be remiss to inter- right leaders are tech-savvy and skew views are rarely challenged.
pret as harmless jokes or outlier opin- young, giving them an air of relatability “That’s kind of the problem with …
ions. When these rhetorical exchanges few politicians or activists can match. the intensive tailoring of [online] infor-
make their way out of online communi- “Social media can be very power- mation,” explains Dr. James Hawdon,
ties and into classrooms, they threaten ful in shaping outlooks, but it doesn’t director for the Center for Peace Studies
safe learning environments in schools, operate in a vacuum,” explains Data & and Violence Prevention at Virginia
particularly for students who belong to Society researcher Becca Lewis. “The Tech. “You just get led into this rabbit
identity groups viewed as problematic shaping is coming from the other peo- hole of increasingly extreme ideas.”
or inferior by members of the alt-right. ple using the platforms.” For young people, the race to construct
Of equal concern is the fact that stu- The alt-right has a massive presence their online echo chambers may also be
dents susceptible to alt-right messag- on social media and other channels where the race to construct their belief systems.
ing can easily fall down a wormhole of young people congregate. A Washington “If you catch an impressionable
online radicalization. Post analysis identified 27,000 influen- young person at the right time, that
“I think you need to get them while tial Twitter accounts associated with the could easily be your red pill, as [the alt-
they are young,” Spencer has said. alt-right, 13 percent of which are consid- right] would call it,” Hankes said.
That is exactly what the alt-right is ered radical. Later, a George Washington And their messages are already
banking on. University study found that white nation- echoing in high school hallways.
alist accounts in the United States have The young man who wrote to The
How the Alt-Right Appeals seen their follower counts grow by 600 American Conservative in February
to Young People percent since 2012. expressed his concern over alt-right ideas
“The thing that the alt-right does better According to a Data & Society spreading rapidly among his once-con-
than white nationalism has done, in the report, young people tend to find their servative, Christian school peers, whom
years that I’ve been tracking it, is it gets news via social media, prefer user-gen- he called angry and aimless.
young people involved,” Hankes says. erated content (e.g., videos) and dis- “It’s absolutely nuts, but what am I
With its origins in online culture, trust traditional outlets. At the same going to do?” he wrote. “[M]aybe that’s
the alt-right speaks the language
of millennials and younger genera-
tions. Information (and disinforma-
tion) is distilled into easy-to-digest KEY NAMES AND TERMS
videos, memes and sound bites, often
imbued with a snarky, “nobody-under- RICHARD SPENCER: Coined the term “alt-right” and
stands-me” tone. founded AlternativeRight.com. The white nationalist is
It is, by design, an affiliation that the alt-right’s most visible figure and is the head of the
appeals to young people. Speaking at a National Policy Institute.
conference in Washington, D.C., Spencer
once said of the alt-right: “It’s edgy and 4CHAN: An imageboard founded by 15-year-old
dangerous, it’s cool and hip. It’s that Christopher Poole in 2003. The board, which features
thing our parents don’t want us to do.” mostly anonymous users and little content regulation,
Spencer and others have made it a gave birth to many of the internet’s most-used memes.
priority to target young, impressionable Its politics board, /pol/, served as an origin point for
minds. He, Milo Yiannopoulos and many alt-right trolls and tactics.
other figures tied to the alt-right speak
on college campuses. The Pettibone sis- 8CHAN: Like 4chan, but even less regulated, the /pol/
ters have started a young-adult book board is an epicenter of far-right organizing, be it seri-

series. Daily Stormer founder Andrew ous or “for the lulz,” and features many of the alt-right’s
Anglin made headlines with a public- most distasteful memes and messages.
ity stunt in which he claimed to recruit
kids through Pokémon Go.

40  T E AC H I N G TO L E R A N C E
just the norm for kids my age now, and
I’m going to just have to be paranoid
that everyone that I meet is secretly a
white nationalist.”
Hawdon is in the midst of a study
of online radicalization in the United
States. The alt-right represents the
most “far-reaching” group, he says, and
the message resonates primarily with
young men.
“A consistent message in the alt-
right movement is that working-class
white males are being shut out and the
government is looking out for all these
other groups and the world is being
taken away from us,” Hawdon says.
“Especially if you spent a lot of time
online, you could become convinced
that everyone in the world is being
handed [opportunities] except for you.”
How often do these ideas reach
young people? Hawdon’s research
found that nearly two-thirds of
respondents ages 15 to 35 had seen
“BASICALLY, ANYONE CAN BE RADICALIZED.” extremist messages within the past
three months.
What draws them in? According
to Lewis, teenage angst and the alt-
right’s “specific tactics online for

MILO YIANNOPOULOS: Former Breitbart writer who made a name for himself by reporting
on factions of the alt-right. His primer on the movement helped push the alt-right into main-
stream discourse.

THE DAILY STORMER: Neo-Nazi website named after Nazi propaganda sheet Der Stürmer,
featuring a “Stormer Troll Army” community behind several harassment campaigns. The site
mixes memes and anti-Semitic and racist rhetoric into a news-website format.

ANDREW ANGLIN: Founder of The Daily Stormer and former 4chan troll who has spearheaded
several campaigns of disinformation and harassment.

REDPILLED: First appropriated from The Matrix, then from the “manosphere” of 4chan cul-
ture, redpilled refers to protagonist Neo’s choice to take the red pill (as opposed to the blue
pill) in order to see the truth about society. For the alt-right, it means espousing their view-
points and seeing through the lies purportedly spread by feminists, mainstream media and

FA L L 2 0 1 7   41
radicalizing young men” create an “If it starts happening again and these literacy. Fostering digital literacy could,
appealing combination. stories become increasingly extreme and for example, help students understand
“Teenagers often go through phases increasingly violent, that’s a kid who’s on how the alt-right takes advantage of a
of rebellion as they shape their identi- the path,” Hawdon says. “If people can 24-hour thirst for headlines and gar-
ties,” says Lewis. “4chan and 8chan can intervene early enough, then they can ners mainstream media coverage for
be really appealing places to experiment be diverted from that path.” memes, conspiracy theories and mis-
with shocking and subversive ideas.” information campaigns. It could also
Those ideas, when diluted (or cloaked Combating the Alt-Right In Class inform students of how online and
in humor) draw in a broad audience and Diversion can begin in the classroom, media climates can be so influential in
open a door for young people who may perhaps before students are even shaping consumers’ worldviews.
not engage with extreme ideas otherwise. exposed to alt-right messaging. The “It’s obviously incumbent upon the
first key, according to experts: Do not education system to teach kids how to
Which Students Are Susceptible? normalize the alt-right. use computers and the web,” Hawdon
While Hawdon cautions that “basically, “If I was a teacher, I would really says. “Educators need to be aware of
anyone can be radicalized,” a typical pro- just hit home that, again, where there’s this and need to warn their students
file does emerge for students suscepti- smoke, there’s fire,” Hankes says. “If the about it and to encourage the use of the
ble to alt-right messag- leaders are stated white virtual world, the navigation of the vir-
ing: young, white, male LEARN MORE nationalists, it feels tual world, in such a way that students
and—in some way—feel- like white nationalism, are at least aware of what’s happening.”
ing powerless. Join our interactive webinar on they’re arguing for an Students left to differentiate between
Dale Beran saw a pat- the alt-right. Mark your ethno-state, then it is the rational and the radical on their
tern of young men who calendar for September 19! white nationalism.” own remain vulnerable to the tactics of
felt humiliated by tradi- Many teachers worry the alt-right, as do students who could
tional standards, whether about accusation of par- experience harassment or worse as a
because they were under- tisanship. But experts result of the movement’s success. On
employed or deemed undesirable by are clear that being affiliated with the both edges of the political spectrum,
women. Alice Marwick and Becca Lewis of alt-right is in no way the equivalent of online radicalization has led to acts
Data & Society also noted a common dis- being right-of-center, nor is there any of violence. The war against “politi-
dain for “political correctness” and, often, need to obscure or soften the alt-right’s cal correctness,” fed in part by the alt-
social isolation in schools or communities. messages with euphemisms. right, has led to unsafe and uncivil cli-
By its very nature, online radical- Instead, teachers can undercut pro- mates in schools and communities.
ization happens outside of the class- paganda by teaching about the strug- And, as the August 12, 2017, “Unite the
room. But Hawdon says teachers have gles faced by the marginalized groups Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia,
a unique opportunity to stop radicaliza- the alt-right often targets. brought into stark relief, white-nation-
tion in its tracks. “I would just do everything in my alist actors are presenting more public
“The thing about radicalization power to humanize the would-be vic- and more emboldened threats than
is it tends to be progressive,” he says. tims,” Hankes says. “It needs to be clear they have in decades.
“[Those being radicalized] go through there’s only one road to an ethno-state, In that letter to The American
several phases.” and that’s by some sort of, most likely, Conservative, the student lamented, “I
Teachers who see students’ creative violent program to reverse diversity.” don’t know that any adults would take
or personal writing have the ability to The Atlantic recently profiled me seriously if I told them this was a
recognize the rhetoric, Hawdon says. If teachers Kathryn Leslie and Malcolm problem.”
far-right rhetoric (e.g., anti-Semitic sen- Cawthorne, who used Richard Spencer’s But what if they did?
timents, xenophobia, racist pseudo-sci- own words as a vehicle to discuss
ence, etc.) finds its way into a story, make extremist thoughts and how they might
a note of it, he says. manifest. The open dialogue allowed
Alt-right rhetoric often cloaks its students to discuss why someone might
meaning behind pop-culture refer- be swept up in alt-right messaging.
ences and inside jokes. But if teach- Beyond political and historical liter-
ers learn to recognize these red flags, acy, however, lies a skill set that could Collins is a staff writer for Teaching
they can recognize students who are offer students the tools to avoid online Tolerance. Senior Editor Monita K. Bell
at risk—and step in. radicalization on their own: digital contributed research to this story.

Test your knowledge of the “alt-right” with this quiz, and expand your knowledge
42  T E AC H I N G TO L E R A N C E with a glossary of key terms and influencers. visit » tolerance.org/tool/alt-right
allowing in the light
open windows into new worlds—one BY CHELSEA TORNETTO
book and one slice of pizza at a time ILLUSTRATION BY PING ZHU

FA L L 2 0 1 7   43
choice of either watching their family
starve or leaving them to look for work
in a foreign country. I suspect many of
them have never met a non-Christian,
let alone watched as their family is per-
secuted because of their faith. Many of
them will fill their carts at Wal-Mart with
little to no awareness of the day-to-day
struggles of the Chinese factory workers
who made it possible for them to do so.
And I can’t give them those experiences.
Or can I?
A story is often the most effective way
Like so many other educators, I became a teacher because to create personal connections between
very different people. Reading a novel
I wanted to make the world a better place—to remove allows us to see the world through
blind hatred and build up understanding. But, over the someone else’s eyes, remove the con-
text we are used to and replace it with
years, I have grown increasingly frustrated by the some- something new. We are more prepared
times-blatant racism and lack of compassion I hear from to accept things beyond our own expe-
riences because we know we are reading
both my students and the United States’ increasingly a ‘‘story,’’ and yet we also actively search
polarized political arena. Picture this scene, a version of for similarities between our own lives
and the lives of the characters. A novel
which played out again and again in my classroom. can begin to open students’ minds and
It is February. My seventh-graders and over the course of the 11 years I’ve been shape their hearts, without doing battle
I are starting a unit on the Middle East. teaching. With our current political cli- against their sense of self.
“One of the big topics we’re going mate and the increasingly brazen rhet- However, like most teachers, I sim-
to cover is the religion of Islam,” I say, oric we hear coming from our polit- ply didn’t have enough money or time
bracing myself. ical leaders and the media, it seems, to incorporate a young adult novel into
“Terrorists!” snickers one student. instead, to be getting worse. every unit in my regular curriculum. So,
The other students join her. Sometimes I find myself thinking, I resolved to start on a smaller scale.
“Well, it’s interesting you should say “Can I really make a difference against The summer I resolved to try to help
that,” I say. “Because even though we hear all this?” expose my students to more stories, I
a lot on the news about terrorist attacks I can’t fault the students. At just 12 and spent weeks reading books that sounded
that are carried out by Muslims, in real- 13 years old, they simply repeat beliefs like they might match my curriculum.
ity, very, very few Muslims are terrorists.” and behaviors they see and hear in the Our school librarian borrowed extra
“Just most of them,” another stu- media, online and at home—beliefs con- copies of these titles from neighbor-
dent chimes in. Another smattering of sidered widely acceptable throughout ing libraries; I posted a flyer outside my
chuckles and sounds of agreement rip- their own community. If I reprimanded door advertising a voluntary book club.
ple through the room. them or lectured them on stereotyping, Students would read the first book for
“And one of the things we’re going to they wouldn’t take it seriously, nor would that month and attend a meeting where
talk about in this unit is the real beliefs of they gain from it. At best, they would we discussed the book while we ate pizza.
the religion of Islam and how important become defensive. At worst, they would That was it. Just good, old-fashioned,
it is to the culture of the Middle East.” feel like they could no longer share their food-based bribery and a good book.
“Bomb ‘em!” another student half- thoughts in my classroom. To my surprise, six students signed
coughs, half-shouts, grinning at his No matter how engaging the lesson up. I paid for the pizza myself and let
friends. The class erupts in laughter. plan or how lively the discussion, there students lead the discussion.
In my classroom in rural Missouri, will always be a level of personal expe- It was incredible. The first book I
moments like this are all too common. rience missing from what I teach. My chose was Crossing the Wire by Will
I wish I could say things have improved students will most likely never face the Hobbs, which tells the story of a young

44  T E AC H I N G TO L E R A N C E
lunch and recess and still provide free
pizza—now paid for by a local sponsor.
One of my students pointed out, “At first,
when I started, I did it for the food, but
then as I read the books, I really enjoyed
the books and what they taught me!”
Structure at our meetings is mini-
mal. Students come in and grab a slice
of pizza and a seat by their friends, and
we start talking. And best of all, as one
of my students recently commented, “I
really enjoy talking, but this book club
has helped me more to listen.”
The students who attend not only lis-
ten; they also take what they’ve learned
back into the classroom with them, share
it with their classmates and bring it up
during class discussions. It helps them
understand the content, and it changes
the tone of the classroom. Fewer snide
comments. More pauses for thought.
They take it home, too. I’ve had par-
A novel can begin to open students’ ents come to conferences and say, “I
learned a lot from that book they were
minds and shape their hearts, without reading. It was really … interesting.”
I’m not saying I’ve solved the prob-
doing battle against their sense of self. lems of racism or sexism or religious
conflict with a few good books. But I
do believe we’re making a difference.
boy who must cross the U.S.-Mexico sure all sides of the argument were heard My students have started to see that
border to earn money for his family’s and challenging bias when it arose. behind every topic the pundits shout
survival. The questions my students Suddenly, the issue took on a human about on the radio are real human
asked were genuine, and their com- face. A topic the students had once beings—parents, students, children—
ments gave me valuable insight into viewed as black and white started just like them. I hope they are start-
their concerns and misconceptions. to take on shades of gray. And, most ing to realize that an impulsive “Bomb
Are the workers at the local Mexican important, an entire group of people ‘em!” shouted out in class has very real
restaurant illegal immigrants? whom they had previously referred to consequences, especially when that
Why don’t we want them to come here? as “those Mexicans” became real peo- sentiment pervades an entire culture.
I didn’t know how bad it was for them ple not so different from them. At the very least, maybe they will think
in Mexico. Before we knew it, the bell was ring- twice before they laugh about it.
Why doesn’t their government help ing and lunch was over. And all six stu- As author Vera Nazarian once said,
them more? dents were asking me when they could “Whenever you read a good book, some-
Why do people hire them if they know do this again. where in the world a door opens to allow
they are illegal? The next time, even more students in more light.” I think book clubs do just
A colleague and I fielded questions attended, and we’ve been growing and that. Ultimately, I hope I have opened up
and guided conversation. We pulled up improving ever since. We now meet a door to the world beyond rural Missouri
maps and photos on the internet and once a month for seven months during for my students and allowed them to see
encouraged the students to keep talking. the school year. Each novel directly cor- that world in a different, brighter light.
We were very careful not to take a stance relates to the unit we are covering in class
for or against immigration. We played and brings the human element into vivid Tornetto teaches middle school world
devil’s advocate back and forth, making focus for the students. We meet during geography in Missouri.

Want to start a social justice book club at your school?

Check out these suggestions. visit » tolerance.org/tool/allowing-light FA L L 2 0 1 7   45

Nothing about us
without us is for us.

MEET HAZEL EDWARDS, a passionate advocate and youth leader for Philadelphia’s trans
community. At just 18 years old, she co-authored a policy for the School District of Philadelphia
that established protections for transgender and gender-nonconforming students. Now
20, she serves as an educator and outreach specialist with the Attic Youth Center, the only
independent LGBTQ youth center in Philadelphia.



FA L L 2 0 1 7   47
dwards is currently focused on and sexuality training for 86 of my old at the Attic. All of us sat in a meeting
getting her GED and starting her faculty members. After the workshop, with some folks from the Philadelphia
undergraduate studies and even- my old principal came up to me and said, school district and with the parent. The
tually plans to pursue a career in social “The student is now the teacher,” with school district heard our stories and
work and art therapy for trans youth. tears in his eyes. That was also one of said that something needs to be done
She spoke with Teaching Tolerance the most empowering moments for me, but that’s a thing that we’ve always
about her school experiences, her activ- where I knew I had a gift of being able to heard and nothing ever came out of it.
ism and how educators can be the advo- share my story and to inspire folks. So the parent, the professor at Penn,
cates trans students need. I read the following quote by you: came to Justice League meetings and
How did you become an advocate “Nothing about us, without us, is for we looked at model policies. A lot of
and youth leader for Philadelphia’s us.” What meaning does it hold for you? the model policies out there don’t talk
trans community? If youth, and specifically trans youth, about gender-nonconforming iden-
I started doing my activism work when I are not given seats at the table to be able tities or nonbinary identities, or give
was pushed out of my single-sex school to bring their perspectives and their many protections to those trans folks.
in Philadelphia. My principal wanted to experiences and the ways that they One of the things that we saw was a
have a conversation about my absences could be best supported, then the policy lot of language of “consistent and per-
and tardies, and I realized in the mid- or the legislation or whatever the rule sistent.” “If this young person is com-
dle of the conversation that I was not is will not adequately support [them]. ing in consistently and persistently
able to explain myself without telling Cisgender folks don’t know all of in the expression of their gender that
him that I’m trans and that not feeling the necessary needs of trans folks. aligns with their gender identity, then
comfortable at this school was a result. “Cisgender,” C-I-S, meaning “same” that young person’s gender identity will
He had no idea what I was talking in Latin, means your gender identity then be confirmed.” I never felt com-
about when I was trying to explain my and assigned sex align. And fortable even walking through my
gender identity to him, so he brought in predominantly cis and neighborhood or going other
the guidance counselor. The guidance straight folks are the Read the places consistently and
counselor was telling me that I couldn’t ones making the pol- SCHOOL DISTRICT persistently in my gen-
get my hair done, my nails done or wear icies and making the OF PHILADELPHIA der identity as I am now.
makeup, even though none of these legislation about POLICY 252 on transgender Also, for many young
things were against the rules. I just trans people and and gender-nonconforming folks at the Attic Youth
wanted to be able to express my gender, about LGB people. students at t-t.site/ Center, they come in
but I had no problem with the uniform. The resources and PhillyPolicy. with one set of clothes,
[M]y guidance counselor said, “You the best practices when usually a school uniform,
are a boy,” and at that moment, I felt working with trans youth and then change their clothes
like she was using her own internal bias are different from working for about one to two hours that
to dictate the ways that she did her job. with LGB youth, and that’s important they’re going to be at the Attic and then
I felt invalidated. I felt like there’s no to recognize as well. Trans is a gender change back into their clothes that they
point [in] finishing this conversation, so identity that is thrown into an acronym came in with to leave. Maybe because
that’s why I packed up my stuff and never full of sexual identities that often gets that young person may not have accept-
went back to that school as a student. conflated, which is why service provid- ing family. Maybe that young person
Then I found an internship on social ers aren’t always adequately equipped doesn’t feel safe in their neighborhood.
media at the Attic Youth Center called with best practices when working with After me and a few other folks
the Justice League. It’s an internship for trans folks. crafted the policy, the professor sent it
LGBTQ youth of color to talk about their You co-authored the School District out to the district and it almost imme-
experiences in systems of oppression and of Philadelphia’s Policy 252 that put in diately was unanimously passed. I saw
also educate youth and adults on differ- protections for transgender and gen- it on the news one day when I was walk-
ent intersecting systems of oppression. der-nonconforming youth. How did ing home, and I was extremely happy
That’s what made me a youth leader this policy come about? and ecstatic. If a young person comes
in the trans community. A University of Pennsylvania profes- out to you, [under] this policy the
Over time, within doing the work sor wanted to get protections for her administration has to support them.
at the Attic, my old school actually trans daughter, so she came to the The administration has to honor their
requested a sensitivity training. I was one Attic Youth Center. I shared my expe- identity and their pronouns and their
of the co-facilitators doing the gender rience, as [did] three other young folks names, which is very powerful. I wish it

48  T E AC H I N G TO L E R A N C E
was a policy that I could use for myself
when I was in school.
And the only thing that the
Philadelphia school district added
is that every staff member has to be
trained on gender identity. That’s what
brought me into helping with training
for thousands of faculty members in the
Philadelphia school district. I, [along
with about 20 other trainers], did the
training specifically on gender identity,
gender expression and assigned sex.
How can educators create trans-inclu-
sive classrooms and schools?
Throw some trans history in there.
Throw some queer history into your
classes—in positive ways. In history
class, you could talk a little bit about
Stonewall while talking about civil
rights movements. You could also name
that Stonewall was started by Marsha
P. Johnson, a black trans woman who
threw a shot glass and a brick that ini-
tiated the Stonewall Riots, which is the
reason why we have gay pride.
If LGBTQ youth don’t see them- conflicts, she would bring up my gen- INTERSECTIONALITY
selves represented in the curriculum der and say transphobic remarks to me Hazel Edwards identifies
that they’re being given, they could that I wasn’t accepting lightly. intersectionality as a crucial element
totally zone out of it and disengage That ultimately resulted in me of her advocacy work with transgender
from education altogether. not feeling safe or comfortable in the youth. For a primer on intersectionality,
[Celebrate] Day of Silence for those household anymore, so I was basically read “Teaching at the Intersections.”
youth who don’t have voices or that are given invitations to leave and I took t-t.site/TeachingIntersections
not confident or comfortable enough it. I’ve experienced time being street
with having their voice out there. homeless, couch surfing and some-
Intervene, step in if [you] hear times my mom would let me come in
homophobic or transphobic comments and then something would happen and
with adequate disciplinary action, I would leave again. Probably for about
instead of just throwing it under the rug, a year or so, I would say I was bouncing
which is what I hear from a lot of inter- back and forth. I would identify myself
viewees when I interview trans youth for as being homeless because I was unsta-
the School of Social Policy and Practice bly housed and supporting myself.
at the University of Pennsylvania. That But because of the work and the advo-
is one of the main things that I see: lack cacy I’m doing, I’m now able to finan-
of advocacy from cisgender allies for the cially support myself, which is a bless-
trans community. ing. I wouldn’t have known that half of
Is there anything you would like to add Philadelphia would know who I am in the
that we haven’t talked about? LGBTQ community. I didn’t know that I
When I came out as trans and I was would win a National Youth Leadership
pushed out of my school, shortly after, award from [the National LGBTQ Task
I was pushed out of my home as well. Force]. All of these things just kind of
Me and my mom had a lot of issues and happened, and all I was doing was the Lindberg is a former writer and associ-
conflicts, and within those issues and work that I’m passionate about. ate editor with Teaching Tolerance.

FA L L 2 0 1 7  49



What do these situations have in common? over the last 18 months. These attacks are
In each case, the complaints and harassment not only disruptive; they can be psychologi-
were organized by national groups mobiliz- cally devastating.
ing individuals from outside the communities Consider the example of White Lives
where those schools operate. Motivated by a Matter, a network of white supremacists with
desire to squash diversity efforts and silence leadership based in Texas, New Hampshire
upstanding behavior in schools, these groups and Georgia. White Lives Matter organized a
used intimidation, troll storming and other national effort to harass schools participating
scare tactics, hoping to disrupt events and in the Rochester School District’s Black Lives
thwart school-based efforts to address bias. Matter Day. The day was intended to, in the
These types of orchestrated actions began words of the district, “affirm the lives of black
to pop up across the country in 2016. They children, who represent the majority of stu-
are increasing in frequency and severity as dents we serve, and to promote understand-
white nationalist groups, anti-LGBT organi- ing.” Meanwhile, White Lives Matter orga-
zations and other groups with anti-diversity nized massive call-in campaigns and even set
agendas—including those that embrace the up online training sessions for its followers.  
“alt-right” label—have become bolder and This was not new territory for White
more vocal. Lives Matter. After targeting one school in
When outside groups undermine efforts Pennsylvania, the group proudly declared a
to create safety and promote inclusion, victory, telling its followers that the group’s
schools must address risk and fear on top efforts had successfully divided the staff and
of the risk and fear marginalized students “crushed” plans to teach about the Black
may already be facing. How can school lead- Lives Matter movement.
ers remain steadfast in their values and reas- In another example, a New York City
sure students and families when their school school received a barrage of harassing phone
becomes a target? calls after the press reported that some
Muslim students there were encouraging For more information about
Organized Efforts school-wide participation in World Hijab Day. hate groups in your area visit
There’s no doubt that nationalist and A national media outlet picked up the story, the SPLC Hate Map.
anti-immigrant sentiments have gained prompting anti-Muslim groups to claim— www.splcenter.org/hate-map
traction in the current political climate. In falsely—that the school was forcing students
the months leading up to the 2016 presiden- to practice Islam. The group’s supporters pro-
tial election and since then, racist, homopho- ceeded to flood the school with calls.
bic, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and anti-im- In Seattle, one elementary school can-
migrant incidents have increased, as has the celed an event titled “Black Men Uniting
visibility of the individuals and groups per- to Change the Narrative,” which had been
petrating such incidents. In some cases, the organized to counter negative stereotypes.
attacks are verbal or virtual; others have Officials cited security reasons for the can-
escalated to physical violence. cellation after details of the event were
Schools have not been spared. Both indi- picked up by the conservative national press,
vidual acts of hate and bias and orchestrated and violent threats from outside the area
attacks have risen in number and severity began rolling in.

FA L L 2 0 1 7   51
Creating schools where students of any identity feel safe, accepted and valued is not a radi-
cal or controversial act. But, as these examples and countless others reveal, an increasingly
vocal contingent of our society disagrees and is willing to go to extreme lengths to under-
mine school-based anti-hate and anti-bias efforts.

BEFORE AN ATTACK and national hate groups that actively target

An orchestrated protest could happen sud- schools, and stay current on their activities.
denly; preparation is the key to minimizing Work closely with the legal department
potential damage. Take the following steps of your school district. Know your rights and
when planning an event that could be targeted. your students’ rights. Pose scenarios and ask
Find allies in your community. Reach out to questions so you can understand the legal
local social groups. Build relationships with ramifications of your actions.
churches, sports teams and other institu- Provide training for staff. Explain what you
tions in your area that actively support are doing and why inclusiveness benefits all
efforts to promote safety and celebrate diver- students. Share your school’s values and con-
sity. Build trust with groups that may be vul- nect those values to the action you are taking
nerable, such as undocumented immigrant to create an identity-safe school climate. Make
families, and organizations that serve them. it clear that the planned activity may draw
Know the landscape of hate. Be aware of local unwanted attention and that school safety is
a top priority. Make sure all staff know emer-
gency protocols, including when to inform the
principal and when to call the police.
Inform district leaders, the teacher’s union
When Teachers Come Under Attack and families in advance. Being transparent
Sometimes, it’s not an activity but a staff member who raises the ire allows you to control the message, builds
of a group or contingent. When this happens, it might be because investment and gives you a foundation to
the staff member has chosen to engage subject matter the group stand on if your plans become twisted or
finds objectionable or because of the identity of the staff member. mischaracterized by outside groups. Allow
It is important that schools stick up for their staff members, families to ask questions, weigh in on plan-
even if they don’t always see eye-to-eye. Not doing so sends the ning and opt their children out of particular
message that the school can be bullied into compromising its activities if they wish. If your district has a
principles. Encourage all staff to inform their supervisor if they communications department, rely on it to
are harassed or made to feel unsafe. The same steps that can pre- help respond to media inquiries. Seek addi-
pare for an attack on the school can help school leadership pre- tional security when needed. 
pare for attacks on individual staff members. Prepare remarks and talking points in
It may be that someone from inside the school is part of the prob- advance. Be ready to issue a statement artic-
lem. Give employees information about the complaint process and ulating the school’s values and reiterating
access to your school board’s harassment policies. Additionally, make your commitment to the event or action.
sure that all school and district leaders know that Title VII of the Civil Make sure that all front-office staff members
Rights Act prohibits employers from allowing offensive conduct, know about the event and have approved
racial or ethnic slurs, racial “jokes,” or other verbal or physical con- talking points or a script on hand in case of
duct based on an employee’s race or gender. It also protects against media inquiries or questions from callers.
retaliation for reporting the offensive conduct.
If you are a teacher who is not being supported by your admin-
istrators, consult your union and consider going to the district DURING AN ATTACK
level or filing an official complaint. It may begin with one or two calls. Then,
suddenly, there are hundreds. Threats begin
appearing via social media. Demonstrators

gather outside the school. Then the Support the target(s). If the attack tar- and behaviors. Seek to restore the offend-
news media show up. What now? gets particular student groups, bring ers to the school community while still
Investigate and document. Inform the those students together and give them protecting targeted students.
district leadership immediately and an opportunity to express their feel- Work toward healing and reconcilia-
involve them in your inves- ings. Let them know that you tion. Healing from divisive events takes
tigation. Have a system for support them, even after the time. Plan activities that will bring stu-
saving any evidence of the worst is over. Provide coun- dents, staff and families together. Be
attack, such as phone or elec- seling if needed. sure to include families of students who
tronic messages (including Enlist the help of commu- were targeted and of students who par-
your responses), and make nity allies. Don’t remain silent. ticipated in the attack. Use restorative
sure that all front-office staff IF YOUR SCHOOL Reach out to organizations practices to unite the school. If neces-
members have been trained IS UNDER ATTACK you’ve built relationships with sary, bring in professional mediators.
on the system. Take pictures but your district and ask for their public sup- Recommit to a safe, kind school.
of any graffiti, protesters and isn’t giving you port. Do the same with com- Redouble efforts to improve school
illegally parked cars. the support you munity leaders. climate.
Report and take down need, reach out Work with the media. It may
offensive posts. Social media to these national be appropriate to arrange a WE STAND STRONGER WHEN WE
outlets such as Twitter and organizations: press conference so your dis- STAND UP FOR EACH OTHER
Facebook have policies for trict can control public mes- Anyone who has experienced an orches-
removing offensive posts. saging and accurately report trated attack on their school will under-
Committee for
Take screenshots before what happened. If you have a stand the saying, “What doesn’t kill us
Civil Rights
removing them. Block com- communications department, makes us stronger.” These are complex
Under Law
ment sections on articles and work with it to designate situations fraught with numerous pit-
inappropriate comments on LAMBDA Legal appropriate speakers. This falls. Making a strong show of support
any of your school’s social may include family members, takes coordination and effort, but it will
Public Justice
media accounts. students or staff who planned strengthen your school community and
Communicate to staff in the targeted event or activity, prevent future attacks.
person. Hold an emergency allies from the community When schools stand strong, it sends
meeting to explain what happened and or other community leaders. Meet with a message to students and families—
how you are handling it, and listen to speakers in advance to make sure every- and to groups seeking to intimidate:
concerns. Provide guidance for a unified one communicates the same message.   Hatred and intimidation are not wel-
response. Instruct staff not to engage come here. As this message builds, more
with attackers via social media or other- institutions across the country will gain
wise. Encourage them to refer all inqui- AFTER THE CRISIS the courage to tackle the waves of hate
ries to the communications department Talking about it may feel like the last and commit to the democratic ideals of
(if available) or to the principal. thing anyone wants to do, but after an inclusivity and freedom.
Provide accurate information and dis- attack, it is imperative to reflect on
pel misinformation. In addition to releas- what happened and actively look for
ing your prepared statement, take time ways to heal the school.
to quell rumors or misinformation. Debrief the incident. Gather district
Inform students and families about the and school staff and anyone else closely
attack through regular secure channels, involved in or affected by the attack.
but don’t overstate the issue or cause Talk through what happened, and doc-
alarm. Send an informative message ument what you might do differently if
while taking a strong stand in support it happened again.
of your school values and safety. Avoid Give consequences to students who Cohn-Vargas develops curriculum and
making comments via social media; they engage in hateful acts. Follow district pol- leads professional development sessions at
can be misconstrued and inadvertently icies, but aim to help students learn from schools and universities across the United
fuel the fire. their mistakes and transform attitudes States. She lives in El Sobrante, California.

Protect your school meetings from disruption. visit » tolerance.org/tool/teaching-bulls-eye FA L L 2 0 1 7   53
Speaking of
Digital Literacy…

LEARN THE LANGUAGE that can help you—and your stu-

dents—decode the complexities of the digital-media landscape. Chan culture: Beliefs and activities
This vocabulary list covers the many ways “fake” news finds related to online message boards such
its way online, highlights key terms necessary to understand as 4chan and 8chan, where often-offen-
media manipulation, and describes how our brains absorb sive images and memes are created and
information—and how they can steer us away from the truth. distributed.
As our story “What Is the ‘Alt-Right’?” reveals, the internet Clickbait: Online content created with
can be a gateway to hate, particularly for young people who the primary purpose of attracting visi-
don’t know how to critically evaluate sources. This list is part of tors and enticing them to click on a link
Teaching Tolerance’s new digital literacy project, an initiative to a specific web page.
to help educators bring these concepts into the classroom and Confirmation bias: The tendency to pro-
equip students to guard against hate and bias online. cess new information as confirmation
of the beliefs one already holds.
Cognitive bias: A mental-processing
error (e.g., in reasoning, interpreting
Agnotology: The study of ignorance. or remembering) that often results
Algorithm: A procedure used to locate from clinging to preferences and
specific data within a collection of beliefs in spite of contrary evidence.
information. Also called a “search Computational propaganda: The
algorithm.” manipulation of information and
Apophenia: The tendency to perceive communication technologies to
meaningful connections in unrelated influence attitudes, thinking pro-
things; seeing patterns where none exist. cesses and behavior.
Astroturfing: The practice of conceal- Copypasta: A block of online text
ing the financial stakeholders pro- that has been copied and pasted
moting a message or an organization from somewhere else.
so that it seems to come from and be Counterknowledge: Inaccruate infor-
supported by grassroots entities. mation that is presented as fact and is
Belief perseverance: The tendency to believed by a critical mass of people.
continue believing something even Crowdsourcing: The practice of
after learning that the foundation of acquiring information for or contri-
the belief is false. butions to a project by seeking the
Bot: An automated online program; aid of a large number of people, usu-
short for web robot. ally via the internet.

54  T E AC H I N G TO L E R A N C E Shuster is an education consultant in Montgomery, Alabama.

Illusion of comprehension: A cognitive
bias that occurs when people mistake
familiarity or awareness for understand- O N L I N E E XC L U S I V E
ing. Also called the “familiarity effect.”
Information cascade: A phenomenon How does “fake” news become
news? Watch this engaging video
in which people echo the opinions of with your students and find out!
others, usually online, even when their tolerance.org/article/
Digital footprint: The information own opinions or exposure to informa- fake-news-video
about a person that can be found tion contradicts that opinion. When
online as a result of their internet information cascades form a pattern,
activity. this pattern can begin to overpower
Digital native: A person born or later opinions by making it seem as if a
raised during the digital age and consensus already exists.
who is thus familiar with the inter- Information diet: The kinds and quan-
net, computers and other digital tity of information that a person con- Opinion laundering: The practice of
technology from an early age. sumes on a regular basis. making opinions seem more valid by
Disinformation: False information Information literacy: The ability to representing them as coming from
that is disseminated to the media recognize the need for information think tanks or other sources that
or other entities with the purpose and to locate, analyze and use it effec- seem reliable. See Astroturfing.
of deceiving. tively in a variety of ways. Poe’s law: Taken from a comment
Dox: To publicly share private or Information pollution: The tainting of made by an online forum partici-
identifying information about available information with inaccu- pant, Nathan Poe, the idea that it
a person online, usually with a racy, redundancy and lack of quality. is nearly impossible to distinguish
malicious or vengeful purpose. Infotainment: Material, online or oth- between an extremist view and a
Dunning-Kruger effect: A cogni- erwise, that combines information parody of it without clear evidence
tive bias that leads people of limited with entertainment. Often used to of the author’s purpose.
skills or knowledge to mistakenly describe material ostensibly intended Social spam: Unwanted material that
believe their abilities are greater to inform but which is primarily shows up on social networking plat-
than they actually are. designed for entertainment. forms and any website with content
Fake news: Disinformation that is Lulz: Laughter and enjoyment, usually generated by users.
presented as news and optimized at someone else’s expense. Sock puppet: An online user posing
for online sharing. Media hacking: The manipulation of as another person—often a real per-
Filter bubble: The limited per- electronic and online media, espe- son—usually to express their own
spective that can result from per- cially social media, to shape a particu- views anonymously.
sonalized search algorithms. lar narrative. Sponsored content: An advertiser’s
Group polarization: A group’s ten- Meme: An image, video, phrase, sym- paid content in an online publication
dency to make more extreme deci- bol or other piece of culture that that takes on the look and qualities of
sions than its individual members is meant to be funny and is shared that publisher’s editorial content.
would typically be inclined to make. widely via the internet, often with Stealth marketing: The practice of
Groupthink: A group’s practice slight changes. paying people to promote products
of thinking or making decisions Memejacking: The act of hijacking a without revealing that those people
in such a way that promotes har- meme and using it for purposes differ- are being compensated.
mony and conformity within the ent from those of its original authors. Troll: A person who engages in
group at the expense of creativity Motivated reasoning: The tendency to provocative or harassing online
or individual responsibility. process new information in such a way behavior using their real identity.
Heuristic: A cognitive shortcut, that it will fit with previously held beliefs. Distinct from a Bot or a Sock puppet.
rule or method that helps people Myside bias: The tendency to endorse Two-sides fallacy: The presenta-
solve problems in less time than it information that supports one’s previ- tion of an issue that makes it seem
would take to think the problem ously held beliefs, truth notwithstanding. to have two sides of equal weight or
all the way through. Native advertising: Online advertis- significance, when in fact a consen-
Homophily: The tendency to form ing that fluidly adheres to the look sus or much stronger argument sup-
connections with people who are and feel of the context or platform in ports just one side. Also called “false
similar to oneself. which it is placed. balance” or “false equivalence.”

Check out a sampling of TT’s new digital literacy lessons!

visit » tolerance.org/tool/digital-literacy-vocab FA L L 2 0 1 7   55
Mindful of Equity
Practices that help students control their impulses can also mask systemic failures.


PASSING BY A classroom where students rising popularity among K–12 educa- says Barbara Dray, lead consultant
are sitting quietly with their eyes closed tors. But some culturally responsive with the LLC Transforming Practices
might have seemed strange a few years educators worry that using mindful- in Education. “That’s not sufficient.
ago, before mindfulness became com- ness meditation in the classroom can I want to have their voices be valued
monplace in schools. But today, most send a dangerous message to students at school.”

educators wouldn’t pause at the scene. struggling within an inequitable edu- Jey Ehrenhalt, a Teaching Tolerance
Research shows that mindfulness cation system. staff member with a background in
meditation can reduce anxiety, improve “What we’re doing when we teach mindfulness studies, agrees. “What we
emotion regulation and increase com- mindfulness to [only] students is say- don’t want to do is communicate to stu-
passion—benefits that account for its ing, ‘Here’s how to cope with school,’” dents that when your school system is


What is mindfulness?
failing you, the best way to cope is to “Mindfulness is simply nonjudgmental awareness of what’s happening right now, being
sit still and be quiet and compliant,” curious and compassionate about what’s happening in the present moment.”
Ehrenhalt says. —Erica Marcus, Mindful Schools Instructor
In other words, implementing mind-
fulness programs without integrating
culturally responsive practices is akin to teachers and students through- students in a way that doesn’t mask
to treating the symptoms of inequita- out New England, asserts that with- harmful patterns or practices.
ble education without addressing the out confronting their innately held
cause. Mindfulness, without a teacher beliefs, teachers will continue to disci- Engaging Students
trained in both meditation and cultural pline their students unfairly. Engaging Rona Wilensky, director of mindful-
competency, may inadvertently teach teachers in mindfulness practice, she ness programs at the Colorado-based
students to resign themselves to ineq- says, can help. nonprofit PassageWorks, agrees that an
uity and injustice. Dray’s approach to mindfulness experienced teacher is fundamental to
“In schools, we need to have a whole work asks teachers to “unpack the successful implementation of mindful-
recognition of the different situations clash” that they’re having with their ness meditation in the classroom.
that are creating the suffering of our students. She begins her workshops She suspects that hasty implemen-
children,” Dray says. by asking teachers to “empty their tation lies at the root of anti-bias edu-
One example of the inequities mind- cup”: acknowledging and discussing cators’ concerns about mindfulness
fulness can perpetuate is harmful dis- the negative thoughts they might have practice in schools. “I think teach-
ciplinary practices. According to the about students. For many educators, ers and educators in general tend to
2014 U.S. Department of Education she says, it can be a difficult, some- be people who prioritize their clients
Office for Civil Rights Data Snapshot, times embarrassing process, but it’s a above themselves, and so they want to
students of color and students with dis- necessary first step. know ‘How can I use this in my class-
abilities are referred to law enforce- Next, Dray talks about intercul- room with my kids tomorrow?’ … That’s
ment at highly disproportional rates. tural communication theory, or the an incredibly positive attribute … [but]
Mindfulness practiced by students idea that the statements we hear about it leaves a blind spot.”
may reduce some of the behaviors that people often fall into three categories: She says that, in a quest for quick
lead to referrals, but it doesn’t address evaluative, interpretive and descrip- implementation, many schools bring
implicit biases in their teachers, which tive. She presents teachers with a ste-
can harm students in numerous ways. reotypical evaluative statement like
For meditation in schools to reap “Refugee kids steal.” They then unpack
social emotional benefits without it together and move to a more inter- Keep Religion Out of It
undermining equity and cultural pretive version: “Refugee kids take Mindfulness meditation is often
competency, a more responsive— more than their fair share during associated with Buddhism, which
and responsible—approach is nec- snack time.” Dray finally moves to a may be a stumbling block for some
essary. Ideally such an approach is purely descriptive statement: “Some administrators or parents. Rona
two-pronged: One, educators must refugee students took two boxes of rai- Wilensky of PassageWorks empha-
acknowledge their own biases and sins during snack time and put them in sizes the point that mindfulness
adopt pedagogical practices that their backpacks.” is not a religion but a scientifically
acknowledge and challenge systemic Once the educators move to a purely based practice.
inequities; and, two, they must hone descriptive statement, it’s easier to Make sure that the mindfulness
their own mindfulness practice before reflect. Why might this be happening? practice you bring into your class-
bringing it into the classroom. Where is this behavior coming from? room is purely secular. That means
For some educators, these ques- taking care to not use objects asso-
Begin Within tions mark the beginning of a journey ciated with any particular religion,
Part of the problem, says Erica toward becoming a culturally con- nor to introduce literature that is
Marcus, a Mindful Schools instructor nected teacher, says Dray. Once edu- religious in nature.
in Portland, Maine, is that many edu- cators gain awareness of their own
cators aren’t aware of their biases. implicit biases, they can more effec-
Marcus, who teaches mindfulness tively teach mindfulness to their

FA L L 2 0 1 7   57
in outside experts to lead sessions to consider room setup. Something as
or resort to push-and-play meth- simple as avoiding a circle configura-
How to Get Started ods like videos. Without a strong tion where kids have to close their eyes
Rona Wilensky says getting started personal mindfulness back- while facing someone can help to make
practicing and teaching mindfulness ground, teachers are left unable the space feel safer for newcomers to
meditation in a school setting isn’t to respond to students’ needs as mindfulness meditation.
difficult—but it is essential that educators they arise throughout the process. And finally, says Marcus, the most
prepare themselves appropriately. What needs to happen, says important thing to remember as a new
1. Team up. Tackling any new task alone Wilensky, is for teachers to first classroom practitioner of mindfulness
can be daunting. Find a couple (or more!) be trained themselves in mind- meditation is to always bring your own
fellow educators who are interested in fulness meditation so they can compassion, experience and under-
learning more about mindfulness. then guide their students. This standing. As Dray says, “At the end of
2. Educate yourself. Check out a book way, teachers become prepared the day, it’s about connecting with each
or video on mindfulness basics for both to address the types of student other on a human level.”
adults and students. It’s essential to difficulties the practice might Ehrenhalt emphasizes that being
understand both. The book and CD set bring up. very honest about the motive for
Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming Marcus adds that there are a implementing mindfulness is critical.
the Present Moment and Your Life, by Jon
few important points that even “Educators should clarify their inten-
Kabat-Zinn, is a good place to start.
experienced meditators need tion before bringing mindfulness into
3. Connect to the community. Not all to focus on when bringing kids the classroom,” Ehrenhalt says. “While
communities have mindfulness meditation
groups, but many do, particularly if you’re
near a university. Connecting with others
who are more experienced with mindful-
Be Aware
ness practice can deepen your practice. Students with known mental health issues or histories of trauma may not be good
candidates for mindfulness meditation in a classroom setting. A psychologist or
4. Practice, practice, practice. There’s
counselor should always be involved in the decision about whether those stu-
no substitute for experience. Make sure
to turn to your peer group and mindful- dents should participate.
ness community when you hit a stum-
bling block. And give yourself at least a
few months of daily sitting, to experi- to the practice. First, she says, teaching kids to meditate may appear
ence the process, before you introduce it mindfulness practice should to be helping them stay calm and con-
to students. never be mandatory. Meditation trolled, on the inside, it’s doing just the
5. Check in with yourself. Is mindfulness can activate traumatic memories opposite. Teachers will only under-
meditation changing how you behave in or thoughts for some children. stand this once they have practiced
the classroom? How you interact with stu- Teachers should be prepared for themselves.”
dents? The practice will not always rep- this, and understand that mind- While not a magic pill, mindfulness
resent a quick fix, but noting the effects
fulness can mean acknowledg- can be one piece of a culturally respon-
of mindfulness on your life can help you
recognize the progress you’re making and ing negative emotions and giving sive approach that equips students with
prepare you to answer students’ questions. students opportunities to process skills that can benefit them in multi-
them. Students should always have ple areas of life—without neglecting a
6. Spread the news. Keep your admin-
a way to opt out gracefully in the school’s commitment to equity.
istration and parents informed. Provide
information on research and be clear middle of a practice session if they “It’s when we use [mindfulness] for
about exactly what you’ll be doing in the become uncomfortable. our own purposes, in an instrumental
classroom. Debriefing is important, says way to meet something that’s not intrin-
Marcus. Students need validation sic to the practice, that we run the risk
7. Start small. Introduce mindfulness
a few minutes at a time. Feel things out that their experience was “cor- of abusing it,” says Wilensky. “I think it
with a simple exercise like taking three rect.” There is no wrong way to has a transformative power when we do
breaths when returning to the classroom be mindful, and many kids need to it with integrity and fidelity.”
after recess. be told explicitly that their expe-
rience—whatever it was—is okay. Pettway is a freelance writer and poet.
Marcus also reminds educators She lives in Shanghai, China.

58 T E AC H I N G TO L E R A N C E
staff picks

What We’re Reading

Teaching Tolerance loves to read! Check out
a few of our favorite diverse books for diverse
readers and educators.

Doc Key believes that animals can

do anything: He teaches his horse
Jim to read, write, spell, solve math
equations and more! Step Right Up:
How Doc and Jim Key Taught the
“An incredible story of how
World About Kindness, written by kindness and education
Donna Janell Brown and illustrated by can change lives.”
Daniel Minter, tells the story of a man —Lauryn Mascareñaz
who was born into slavery and lived
a long and inspiring life. He helped
enslaved people find freedom via the
Underground Railroad, became a doctor,
fought in the Civil War and confronted
racism and segregation as he toured the
world with his famous horse.

PROFESSIONAL After winning the lottery, two gay couples buy a big, old Victorian
DEVELOPMENT house in Toronto. They then settle into a life filled with love and
The Kindness Diaries: learning in which their seven children (all named after trees) and
One Man’s Quest to an assortment of pets can thrive. When their grumpy grandfather
Ignite Goodwill and
comes to live with the family, 9-year-old Sumac has to give up her
Transform Lives Around
room and be his guide. The Lotterys Plus One, written by Emma
the World by Leon
Logothetis Donoghue and illustrated by Caroline Hadilaksono, invites readers
into a perfectly imperfect modern family.
SCHOOL “A fun-filled story about an unusual family that, like all
Fault Lines in the families, has to learn to be open to life’s changes.”
Constitution: The —Lois Parker-Hennion, Teaching Tolerance Advisory Board member
Framers, Their Fights,
and the Flaws That
Angie Thomas writes The Hate U Give from the perspective of
Affect Us Today by
Cynthia Levinson and 16-year-old Starr Carter, the only witness to the fatal shooting of
Sanford Levinson her friend Khalil by a police officer. Readers follow Starr’s path
as she is asked to testify in front of a grand jury and speak out in
ELEMENTARY support of her late friend. Repercussions within her predominantly
SCHOOL black neighborhood and majority-white school make for
Voice of Freedom: Fannie compelling final decisions.
Lou Hamer, Spirit of the HIGH SCHOOL
Civil Rights Movement
by Carole Boston
“An important look at activism, justice and racial stereo-
Weatherford, illustrated typing from almost every perspective.”
by Ekua Holmes —Amy Melik, Teaching Tolerance Advisory Board member

FA L L 2 0 1 7   59
staff picks
“A beautiful way to encourage
empathy and seeing others for
the complex beings they are.”
—Monita K. Bell

“This deeply relatable novel will

ring true for anyone who has “Inspirational reading
grappled to understand their for anyone teaching
own distinct and diverse identity.” or considering a
—Tiffany Gibert
career in teaching.”
—Kate Shuster

Patricia A. Jennings’ Mindfulness for smelly taco truck makes that difficult,
Teachers is an accessible text for educators especially when her schoolmates start calling
“A user-friendly book to
wanting to learn more about an increasingly her “Taco Queen.” Jennifer Torres’ debut
help teachers become popular concept. Jennings begins with middle-grade novel, Stef Soto, Taco Queen,
more intentional in the premise that teaching is an emotional captures this universal period of identity
their practice and create practice. Unconscious reactions to emotions development in one sweet story. Filled with
a more supportive can cause harm in the classroom, so the trials of friendships and family, the book
classroom environment.” using mindfulness techniques can help relates Stef’s journey as she learns to value
—Hoyt J. Phillips III an educator create space between an her unique culture and her parents’ different
experience and the reaction. This space (but delicious) job.
provides more options to intentionally MIDDLE SCHOOL
respond to a student or a situation in a
way that will produce a more desirable Peppered with photographs and quotes, this
outcome for all. Each chapter unpacks key informative book provides a detailed account
components for a mindfulness practice of the 1966 March Against Fear, begun by
and provides easy-to-use activities. The James Meredith. After Meredith was shot and
book concludes with a review of evaluated wounded, thousands of people took up the
mindfulness programs for schools. 220-mile march from Memphis, Tennessee,
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT to Jackson, Mississippi. So, why did such
a dramatic event fade into obscurity? In
Ruby Danes is about to experience a major The March Against Fear: The Last Great
life change the summer before she starts Walk of the Civil Rights Movement and
middle school. She’s done an impressive the Emergence of Black Power, author Ann
job of keeping her life on the outside very Bausum explores this question, chronicles
separate from the one on the inside, where the march and puts it into historical context.
“A fascinating examination her mother is serving a 20- to 25-year prison HIGH SCHOOL
of the last major civil rights sentence. Don’t have anyone over so they don’t
march of the 1960s and how ask questions. Don’t ask questions so you don’t Why the SUN Rises: The Faces and Stories of
the demand for Black Power open yourself up to answering any. But a new Women in Education presents 29 interviews
transformed the movement.” friend—her first, real best friend—inspires with teachers that can serve as rich sources
—Lois Parker-Hennion  her to live authentically. Nora Raleigh of strength and inspiration for educators.
Baskin’s Ruby on the Outside explores how “Why do you rise each day to teach?” is the
friendship and understanding can make all question put to each teacher, and their
the difference. answers show resilience and optimism.
UPPER ELEMENTARY AND MIDDLE SCHOOL Dr. Doran Gresham and Meredith Chase-
Mitchell compiled the interviews of a diverse
Like most seventh-graders, Stef Soto just and socially conscious group.
wants to fit in. But her parents’ embarrassing, PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

60  T E AC H I N G TO L E R A N C E
From Damascus to Chicago

What We’re Watching Dim the lights and get ready to learn
with these TT-approved films!

An Outrage, a documentary film by Hannah with their parents, also featured in the this year—struck down bans on interracial
Ayers and Lance Warren, addresses the film. Retaj and Akram are enrolled in a marriage in 16 states, including Virginia, and
dark and painful history of lynching in the dance program for Syrian refugee children paved the way for other marriage equality
American South. Set against a backdrop who have been in the United States for rulings. (123 min.)
of six lynching sites, An Outrage looks at less than a year. The siblings prepare for a
this history through the eyes of community dance recital, which helps them acclimate MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL
activists, scholars and the descendants of to Chicago, improve their English language
victims. These interviewees highlight the skills and have fun at the same time.
deep, lasting effects of lynchings—used as From Damascus to Chicago highlights the In Teaching Tolerance’s short film Muslim
a tool of social control and racial violence importance of community-based networks Students in America, four young people
against African Americans for close to and programs that welcome and support share their personal perspectives on
a century following the Civil War—and refugees. (12 min.) what it means to be Muslim. Rebutting
their connections to the present. Historian a common, harmful image of Islam as
pbs.org/pov/fromdamascustochicago a hateful, violent religion, the students
Yohuru Williams says, “My parents grew up ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
in the shadow of Emmett Till. I grew up in affirm the meaning of Islam—“peace”—
the shadow of Yusef Hawkins. My son will as they describe how their faith
grow up in the shadow of James Byrd and Loving, written and directed by Jeff encourages them to practice kindness
Trayvon Martin.” Teaching Tolerance is the Nichols, is a feature film about the real-life and empathy. They also discuss the
K–12 distributor of An Outrage and offers couple Richard and Mildred Loving. After adversity they face because of their
an accompanying viewer’s guide. (33 min.) facing harassment, arrest and jail time for religious identity and the need for allies
their interracial marriage, the Lovings are to speak up against anti-Muslim hate and
tolerance.org/classroom-resources/ banished by court order from their home prejudice. One interviewee, high school
film-kits/an-outrage state of Virginia for 25 years. They move student Saria, says, “It would honestly
their family to Washington, D.C. It is here, change many people’s lives if kids were
after Mildred pens a letter to Attorney taught that Muslims … are pretty nice and

Colleen Cassingham and Alex Lederman’s General Robert Kennedy, that the Lovings honest and kind.” (4 min.)
short documentary From Damascus to somewhat reluctantly became the faces
Chicago focuses on two Syrian siblings, of a U.S. Supreme Court case about UPPER ELEMENTARY, MIDDLE AND HIGH
10-year-old Retaj and 7-year-old Akram. anti-miscegenation laws. Their landmark SCHOOL
They are refugees who resettled in Chicago victory in Loving v. Virginia—50 years ago

FA L L 2 0 1 7   61
Washed Away

Fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen … Max’s hands started to sweat as he walked across the yard
“Come on, Max! We’re going to get in trouble.” toward Jaime’s house. He’d suddenly remembered high-fiv-
… eighteen, nineteen … ing his dad as he got off the bus. And then his dad made the
“Seriously, Ms. Alvarez is calling everyone in the hallway.” sandwich. It must be crawling with germs. Gross!
… twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four … Jaime’s voice startled him. “Hey!” he yelled from his
Max concentrated on his hands. “I’ll be out in a minute. porch. “Mom said no TV. I told you you’d get me in trouble!
I have to finish.” You’re such a weirdo, always taking forever in the bathroom.”
“Fine, but don’t blame me if you have to sit out recess tomor- Jaime grabbed the sandwich out of Max’s hand.
row!” Jaime said as the bathroom door swung shut behind him. “Wait! Don’t eat that!” Max grabbed the sandwich back
… twenty-eight, twenty-nine. and ran inside Jaime’s house, straight to the bathroom. He
Max dried his hands and stuck his head out the bathroom threw the sandwich in the trash and lunged for the sink.
door. Ms. Alvarez was standing there, frowning. One, two, three …
“Hurry up. Everyone else is already back in the classroom! “Max?” It was Jaime’s mom. “Is everything OK?”
What took you so long?” … four, five, six …
Max shrugged his shoulders; he kept his hands behind his Max realized he’d forgotten to lock the door. It opened,
back as they walked down the hall. and Jaime’s mom walked in.
After school, Jaime plunked down beside him on the bus. … nine, ten …
“You got me in trouble! Why are you always messing “Honey, your hands are really raw. Let’s get you a towel.”
around in the bathroom? Now we’re both going to … fourteen …
miss recess tomorrow!” “Leave me alone!” Max muttered between counts.
Max didn’t say anything. “They’re not clean yet!”
At home, he slid his backpack under his bed. … eighteen, nineteen …
He could hear his dad calling from the living room, He could hear Jaime’s mom on the phone, “I think you
“Wash your hands, and I’ll make you a snack.” should come over here …”
Max thought about his bag, covered in germs from … twenty-nine.
school. There must be millions of different bacteria— Max looked up. His dad was standing in the bathroom
that’s what Ms. Alvarez calls germs. And then there were doorway. He gently pulled Max’s hands from behind his
the books, and he let Trina borrow that one pen. She chews back. They were red, and the skin on one of his knuckles
on pens. was cracked.Max started to cry.
He turned on the hot water and stuck “I just don’t want any of us to get sick.
his hands under the faucet. Questions for Readers If I wash my hands the same way every
One, two, three … RIGHT THERE (IN THE TEXT) time, we’ll all be safe,” he said.
His dad’s voice called over the rush of Why does Jaime blame Max for Max’s dad held him tight.
water, “Max! Your sandwich is ready!” getting in trouble? “You’re not going to make us sick,
… fourteen, fifteen … THINK AND SEARCH (IN THE TEXT) Max, but I understand how scared you
He could hear footsteps coming down Why does Max keep his hands are. We’ll talk to Ms. Johnson, the school
the hall. He pushed the lock. behind his back or in his pockets? counselor, tomorrow. I bet she can help.”
“Max, stop lollygagging. What’s taking AUTHOR AND ME (IN MY HEAD)
Jaime poked his head around Max’s
you so long?” Why does Max wash his hands dad. He looked embarrassed.
… twenty-nine. so often and for so long? What is “Sorry I was a jerk earlier,” he said. “I
Max turned off the water. His hands something you do over and over? didn’t know you were so worried. Come
hurt from the heat. on, let’s go make some more sandwiches!”
“I’m coming, Dad,” he said, unlocking the Max cracked a smile. Things were a lit-
Have you ever hid some-
door and shoving his hands in his pockets. thing from family or
tle less scary with his dad and Jaime on
“Your sandwich is on the table.” friends? Explain what his side.
“Thanks, Dad. I’m going next door to happened when they
Jaime’s house,” said Max, grabbing the found out. Pettway is a freelance writer and poet.
sandwich and opening the front door. She lives in Shanghai, China.

Discover more stories about childhood obsessive-compulsive disorder.

visit » tolerance.org/tool/washed-away 63
FA L L 2 0 1 7  
ONE WORLD tolerance.org


Teaching Tolerance and participating artists encourage educators to clip the One World
page to hang on a classroom wall. It is created with just that purpose in mind. Enjoy!

This quote is attributed to Fred Rogers (1928–2003), an American television personality who
hosted the popular children’s show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for more than three decades.
The recipient of many awards, Rogers received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002 for
his contributions to children’s well-being and education.


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Mix It Up at Lunch Day encourages students
to expand their comfort zones and connect
with someone new over lunch. It’s a fun,
effective way to break down social barriers
and inspire new friendships!
Ready to take Mix It Up to the next level?
We’ve created a three-stage plan so you can
use Mix activities to boost school climate all
year long. Start today, and see a friendlier
school tomorrow.


k Register for Mix.
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