Site hosted by Build your free website today!

ARA of Texas: Austin Chapter

Home | News & Events | Info | FAQ
Links | Contact | History | P.D.E.


Racial tension and violent behavior among students are prevalent in schools today. Despite the fact that many hate-motivated crimes go unreported the number of reported incidents is up. When students in Informal surveys nationwide acknowledge that fighting and violence in school is one of their major concerns, we know that we have a national problem Students and faculty want safe places in which to teach and learn, But often racial tension results in fights, name-calling, graffiti and other bias-related incidents. These acts of hatred often represent a much deeper-rooted expression of hostility against a person or property because of race, religion, nationality gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation than we would like to admit. Schools and other institutions need to learn to recognize and address bias-related incidents. Educators must encourage students to speak up when they see or experience something hateful and teachers and students must learn to do something about the problem. Definition of a Hate Incident Hate-motivated incidents are defined as an expression of hostility against a person or property because of the victim's race, religion, disability, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.(However, hate-motivated incidents include those actions that are motivated by bias, but do not meet the necessary elements required to prove a crime. This may include such behavior as non-threatening name-calling, using racial slurs or disseminating racist leaflets. Protected classifications vary from state to state.

Definition of a Hate Crime
Hatecrimes are defined under specific penal code sections as an act or an attempted act by any person against the person or property of another individual or group which in any way constitutes an expression of hostility toward the victim because of his or her race, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, gender or ethnicity. (This includes, but is not limited to, threatening phone calls, hate mail, physical assaults, vandalism, cross burning, destruction of religious symbols and fire bombings. Protected classifications vary from state to state.) Plan Ahead Work with your school administration to establish a plan for responding promptly to hate incidents and hate crimes. Educate school staff on how to recognize hate-motivated incidents and hate crimes. Establish procedures for reporting hate-motivated incidents/crimes. Establish school policies which clearly indicate that hate-motivated behavior will not be tolerated.

Response Strategies
Respond promptly to incidents.  Conduct a complete investigation of the incident, including the questioning of victim(s), witness/es and perpetrators. Report hate-motivated crimes to law enforcement. If there is physical damage - defacing, spray-pointing, etc. - take photographs. As soon as law enforcement personnel have viewed the damage and photographs have been token, have the damage repaired. If hate literature has been distributed, collect the literature for evidence. Train school counselors to assist hate-motivated crime victims and/or provide referral sources to community agencies. Reassure the victim and or her family that the incident will be treated seriously. Determine proper disciplinary action according to school protocols. If your district has a reporting policy, submit a hate-motivated crime/incident report to the appropriate district offices. Determine whether or not additional follow-up activities are necessary, e.g., staff and student awareness activities, responses to the media, etc.

Factors in Identifying Acts as Bias Related
The motivation behind the act determines whether an incident is bias related. Although no one factor is conclusive, the following criteria, applied singly or in combination, should be used to determine if probable cause exists to believe that an incident was motivated entirely or in port by animosity toward the victim because of his or her race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity or national origin.

Were words, symbols or acts which are or may be offensive to an identifiable group used by the perpetrator, or are they present as evidence? For example, is there a burning cross or a pointed swastika, or were derogatory words or slurs or graffiti directed at a particular racial, religious, ethnic or other group? Are the victim and the suspected perpetrator members of different racial, religious or ethnic groups? Has the victim or the victim's group been subjected to post incidents of a similar nature? Has there been tension or hostility between the victim's group and another particular racial, religious or ethnic group? Is the victim the only minority group member in the neighborhood or one of just a few such persons? Did the victim recently move into the area? Is the victim acquainted with neighbors and/or local community groups? Has there been evidence of hostility toward the victim by neighbors? When multiple incidents occur at the same time, are all victims of the some race, ethnicity, religion, national origin or sexual orientation? Does a meaningful portion of the community perceive and respond to the situation as a bias related incident? Does the incident appear to be timed to coincide with a specific holiday or date of significance (e.g., Martin Luther King Day, Rosh Hashanah, Ramadan)? Has the victim been involved in recent public activity that would possibly make him or her a target? For example, has the victim been associated with any prominent recent or past activities relating to his or her race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation (e.g., NAACP, gay rights rally, demonstrations by or against the Ku Klux Klan)? Has there been prior/recent news coverage of events of a similar nature? What were the manner and means of attack (e.g., color of point, symbols or signs utilized, unusual spelling of the words used)? Is the modus operandi similar to other documented incidents? Is there an ongoing neighborhood problem that may have initiated or contributed to the act (i.e., could the act be retribution for some conflict between neighbors or with area juveniles)? Does the perpetrator responsible have a true understanding of the impact of the crime/incident on the victim or other group members? Are the perpetrators juveniles? Does the crime/incident indicate possible involvement by an organized hate group (e.g., Ku Klux Klan, American Nazi Party)? For example: a. Is the literature printed or handwritten? Does it contain an identifiable hate group symbol or insignia or hate group address? b. Is there any documented or suspected organized hate group activity in the area?

Responding to Children's Questions & Comments What Can Parents Do about Prejudice?
The Center for Immigration Studies reports that by the year 2000, one-third of all U.S. citizens will be people of color. Today, one-third of the children in public schools are from what have traditionally been called "minority" groups. Schools are increasingly challenged to educate children who come from a wide range of backgrounds, abilities, and experiences. So-called "minorities" have become the numerical majority in 50 cities. The workforce of the near future will be composed of a majority of women and people of color.

While today's changing demographics are compelling, historically the United States has always been challenged to find effective ways for its diverse populations to live and work well together. To ensure their potential for success, we must prepare all children to live and work harmoniously and productively alongside others who represent various and many racial and cultural groups, backgrounds and abilities in our society. One of the greatest obstacles to creating such a future is prejudice. While many of us would like to believe that prejudice is a problem of the past, this is not the case. Incidents of prejudice and discrimination occur every day. For example, on a daily basis:
Some people are called hurtful names or are excluded from participating in events;
Some people are unfairly excluded from jobs, neighborhoods, bank loans, educational opportunities, social events and clubs;
Some people are attacked and beaten;
Some people's homes, places of worship, or cemeteries are vandalized; andSome people are unfairly paid less than others for doing equal work.
Such instances of discrimination are far from rare. If we are to have a just society, it is up to each of us to take a stand against such unfair practices and attitudes. We must teach our children that there is no place for prejudice or discrimination in our communities, homes, schools or places of work.

Learning Prejudice, Media Influence, & Self-Image Responding to Children's Questions & Comments What Can Parents Do about Prejudice?
Attitudes or opinions about a person or group simply because the person belongs to a specific religion, race, nationality, or other group. Prejudices involve strong feelings that are difficult to change. Prejudice is pre-judging. A person who thinks, "I don't want (name of group) living in my neighborhood," is expressing a prejudice.
Children also observe and are exposed to prejudice by watching television, reading books and magazines, or even studying school textbooks that present stereotyped views of various groups of people. In addition to stereotypes, some books present misinformation; others exclude important information about some groups in any positive way. Television shows and books exert undue influence when they are the only exposure a child has to certain groups. Although some improvements have been made, it is not difficult to find TV shows that depict some well-established stereotypes.
Children who have poor self-images are more vulnerable to developing prejudices. They may try to bolster their own worth by finding a group of people whom they can put down. An insecure child might think, "I may not be very good but I am better than those people." For some, putting down others may serve a psychological function, allowing them to feel more important and powerful than those they put down.
Some children may exclude or make fun of others because they believe it is the popular thing to do. Children may begin to use unkind names for different groups if they feel it will help them to be more accepted by their peers. Over time, such actions can result in prejudice and discrimination against specific groups. All children notice differences. This is developmentally appropriate and, by itself, not a problem; but when negative values are attached to those differences, problems occur.
Find out more about what your children think in order to know what misconceptions may need to be corrected. After you have determined what they think, respond with a simple, "I'm trying to understand why you said that, but I don't see it that way." Be direct. Be brief. Use language your children will understand. Questions that might be addressed include the following:
"How is a prejudice different from a dislike?"
Prejudice is having an opinion or idea about a member of a group without really knowing that individual. A dislike is based on information about and experiences with a specific individual.
"Why don't people like those people? Why do people call them names?"
One answer could be: "Some people make judgments about a whole group people without knowing very much about them. Sometimes people are afraid of those who seem different from them and, unfortunately, they express that with name-calling and negative treatment. When people grow up with these ideas, sometimes it's hard to get rid of them."
It is important for children to know that they can help to overcome racism, sexism and all forms of bigotry. Show them how the choices they make can help to create a fairer world: "When a lot of children like you grow up, differences will become less and less important, and people will respect each other even for their differences."
"Why do those people look (or act) so funny? Why can't he walk? Why do they believe such strange things?"
Children need to realize that all people are different. It is important to communicate to children that we often think others are different simply because they are unfamiliar to us. We don't think our own beliefs and appearances are strange or funny because they are what we're used to. Point out that we must appear different to others, too.
"I don't like (name of group) people."
Such a comment needs to be handled carefully. It is important that you address such comments without making your children become defensive. With young children, the tone of the discussion should be one of exploring their thinking. A discussion might go as follows:
"You sound as if you know all the people who are (name of group), and that you don't like any of them. You can only like or dislike people you know. If you don't know someone, you can't have a good reason for liking or not liking them. There are children you may not like to play with, but their skin color (religion, accent, appearance, size, etc.) should have nothing to do with it." Discuss with your children the character traits they look for in their friends, such as kindness, honesty, etc.
"Name-calling? I didn't mean anything!"
Often young children do not know the meaning of the words they use, but they do know that the words will get a reaction from the victim. Children need to learn that such language can hurt other people, and is as bad as throwing rocks. Children who yell a racist or other hurtful name in anger should be talked to right away. They must learn not to throw objects at or say hurtful words to other children. Children need to understand that they have made a mistake and have hurt someone. A discussion might include the following ideas:
"You were angry at Tom and you called him a hurtful name. You need to know that words can hurt. When people get hurt by words, they don't get cuts or bruises on the outside, but they are hurt on the inside. You may have been really upset at something Tom did; but instead of telling him what you didn't like, you called him a word that is used to hurt people. If you told Tom what you didn't like, it might have helped him to change his behavior. Name-calling is unfair. It hurts people, and it doesn't solve anything." Help children think about solutions. Try to elicit a few options from them, and then ask which ones they would like to try. "If you are angry with Tom, what can you do to let him know how you feel without calling him a name?"   In an effort to educate the namecaller, it is important not to ignore the child who has been called hurtful names. Be sure to give time and attention to children who have been victimized by name-calling; they need to be reassured that their race, religion, gender, accent, disability, sexual orientation or appearance do not make them deserving targets.
Accept each of your children as unique and special. Let your children know that you recognize and appreciate their individual qualities. Children who feel good about themselves are less likely to be prejudiced. Also, notice unique and special qualities in other people and discuss them with your children.

Help your children become sensitive to other people's feelings. Studies indicate that caring, empathic children are less likely to be prejudiced. Share stories and books with your children that help them to understand the points of view of other people. When personal conflicts occur, encourage your children to think about how the other person might be feeling.

Make sure your children understand that prejudice and discrimination are unfair. Make it a firm rule that no person should be excluded or teased on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, accent, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or appearance. Point out and discuss discrimination when you see it.

Teach your children respect and an appreciation for differences by providing opportunities for interaction with people of diverse groups. Studies show that children playing and working together toward common goals develop positive attitudes about one another. Sports teams, bands, school clubs and community programs are examples of activities that can help to counter the effects of homogeneous neighborhoods. In addition to firsthand experiences, provide opportunities for children to learn about people through books, television programs, concerts or other programs that show positive insights into other cultures.

Help children recognize instances of stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination. Make sure they know how to respond to such attitudes and behaviors when they see them in action. Television news and entertainment shows, movies and newspapers often provide opportunities for discussion. According to recent studies, encouraging children's critical thinking ability may be the best antidote to prejudice.

Encourage your children to create positive change. Talk to your children about how they can respond to prejudiced thinking or acts of discrimination they observe. Painting over racist graffiti, writing letters to a television producer who promotes stereotyped programming, or confronting a peer's discriminatory behavior are all appropriate actions. Confronting classmates is particularly hard for children, so they need to have a ready made response to such instances. If another child is called a hurtful name, an observer might simply say, "Don't call him/her that. Call him/her by his/her name." Or, if your child is the victim, "Don't call me that. That's not fair." or "You don't like to be called bad names and neither do I." In all cases, try to help your child to feel comfortable in pointing out unfairness.

Take appropriate action against prejudice and discrimination. For example, if other adults use bigoted language around you or your children, you should not ignore it. Your children need to know that such behavior is unacceptable even if it is from a familiar adult. A simple phrase will do: "Please don't talk that way around me or my children." or "That kind of joke offends me." Adults need to hold themselves to the same standards they want their children to follow.

View Guestbook     Sign Guestbook
Join our mailing list!
Enter your email address below,
then click the 'Join List' button:
Powered by ListBot