In Depth look: Hate In Schools

Posted by Education Week on August 13, 2018

By Francisco Vara-Orta, Graphics by Vanessa Solis Published on August 6, 2018

Photos by Daryl Peveto for Education Week
Warning: this article contains racist and offensive language.

Swastikas on bathroom stalls. Chants of ‘Build the wall.’ Notes that say ‘Go back to Mexico.’ Education Week found hundreds of reports of hate and bias in schools.

Newtown, Pa. – Three swastikas were scrawled on the note found in the girls’ restroom, along with a homophobic comment and a declaration: “I Love Trump.” Found inside the backpack of Latina student, a note that said: Go back to Mexico. Two other hate-filled incidents—invoking Donald Trump’s name and using swastikas—were also reported that same day. The school: Council Rock High in this mostly white, affluent Philadelphia suburb. The day: Nov. 9, 2016, the day after the election of President Trump. Council Rock school district Superintendent Robert Fraser condemned the incidents, but told parents he believed they were isolated events. The acts, he wrote in a letter on Nov. 10, were “inappropriate” and would not be tolerated. But, he emphasized, they were “likely the responsibility of a very small number of individuals whose actions should not damage the reputation of the larger group.” Soon after, the district formed a council on diversity, mostly composed of parents, and took several other steps, including training for school staff to better identify and respond to hate incidents. Despite those efforts, Council Rock High, said some parents and students, continues to have a culture where racist views are sometimes boldly expressed, but oftentimes ferment under the surface. The hate-fueled incidents at Council Rock in the wake of the divisive 2016 presidential election, and the school’s rocky path to addressing them, are not unusual.

Even as high-profile hate crimes and bias incidents grab national attention, it’s difficult to quantify how many occur in broader society, including those that take place inside the nation’s schools.

Concerns about a rise in hate crimes and bias incidents have surged since the campaign and election of President Trump, who has frequently used coarse language and racist rhetoric when describing immigrants, people of color, and women. In schools, similar worries are echoed by some students, parents, and educators who suggest that Trump’s influence has emboldened some children, teenagers, and even school employees to openly espouse hateful views.

To understand how hate, intolerance, and bias are affecting school climate and impacting students and their educators, Education Week partnered with the nonprofit news organization ProPublica in a project called Documenting Hate. We analyzed three years of media reports and self-reported incidents of hate and bias in K-12 school settings—many submitted to ProPublica.

In a review of 472 verified accounts, we found that most incidents that took place in schools between January 2015 and December 2017 targeted black and Latino students, as well as those who are Jewish or Muslim.

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