(Published December 31, 2015)
On December 31, 2015, former Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, and the now Acting Secretary of Education, John B. King, Jr., released a letter discussing their concerns with discrimination and harassment based on student race, religion, or national origin in schools and institutions of higher education. They emphasized that the many complicated and difficult issues currently facing the country and the world (e.g., historic levels of vulnerable individuals displaced from their homes due to conflict and persecution) make it ever more important for schools to create safe learning environments in which students are free from discrimination and harassment.
You can read the complete letter at: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/secletter/151231.html
Several detailed examples are listed in the letter of how schools can make all students feel welcome, respected, and equally able to participate in a robust exchange of ideas, including:
- Valuing the diverse linguistic, cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds of all students;
- Encouraging students on all sides of an issue to express disagreement over ideas or beliefs in a respectful manner;
- Communicating a clear message to students that harassment and bullying will not be tolerated and that school is a safe place for all students;
- Creating opportunities for students to enhance their cultural competency by being exposed to various cultures and faiths, such as through co-curricular activities in which students work on service projects so they discover commonalities and appreciate differences;
- Encouraging students, staff, and parents to report all incidents of harassment and bullying so that the school can address them before the situation escalates;
- Having a system in place to intervene if a student’s conduct could endanger others; and
- Ensuring that information about the steps outlined above are easily understandable for all students, families, and school or college personnel—including those from diverse linguistic backgrounds.