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Is Student Prejudice Increasing?

While prejudice and intolerance is nothing new, there seems to be a growing trend of students boldly expressing prejudiced and even racist ideas, made more accessible by social media. A sampling of prejudiced conduct includes:

  • swastika carved into a bathroom stall at a private school in Cherry Creek Village, CO.
  • 10 female high school students in Southlake, TX participating in a racist chant that was posted on social media.
  • A Poplar Bluff, MO student who wore a KKK hood in class as part of a presentation on the constitution.
  • White students gave an African American student a note with the n-word on it at an Oswego, OR junior high school.
  • A White student in Washington County, UT who posted a photo of herself with a noose  around her neck and x'es on her eyes with the caption, "Happy National N***** Day."

  • A group of White students in Deptford Township, NJ who wore Confederate flag shirts and used racial slurs in response to classmates protesting racial inequality.
  • A Black honor student and his brother who withdrew from a Gloucester County, NJ Christian school after finding racist death wishes in his locker.
  • Swastikas and Nazi slogans written on bathroom walls and emailed anonymously to a senior high school and junior high school in Davis, CA.
  • A White student in Lake in the Hills, IL who called a Black student the n-word, threw a banana at him and told him to pick it up, and then progressed to posting threatening videos online.
  • A White student's texting of racist jokes and subsequent attack by an African American student after his return from suspension in Clovis, CA.
  • Two incidents at a Coatesville, PA school: a dark-skinned doll hanged from the ceiling in a locker room and a photo of White students behind pumpkins carved with "KKK" and swastikas. 
  • A White student in Collierville, TN who painted the f-word and the n-word on an African American pastor's car, saying afterward that it was meant to be funny, not racist.
  • Two White Quakertown, PA middle school students who yelled racial slurs at an opposing football team's cheerleaders and threw rocks at the team's bus.
  • White students' texting of the n-word, which prompted a scuffle and a protest at a Washington Township, NJ, school.
  • Offensive social media posts involving images of slavery by White students from a Richardson, TX high school, in advance of their school’s football game with a rival school.  
  • A football player in North Carolina who used the n-word against a rival team's player.
  • Racial slurs and swastikas scrawled throughout a high school, with some White students laughing posing for pictures in front of the "white power" graffiti, in Hedwig Village, TX.

  • Reports by students in York, PA of racial harassment, including a student yelling, "White power," in the run up to the presidential election. 
  • Anti-gay, anti-Mexican, and anti-Black, and anti-Jewish statements and drawings found in a Newtown, Pennsylvania school's bathrooms and in a student's backpack.
  • White North Bend, Oregon students shouting “Go back to Mexico!” at an 11-year-old Colombian American student and others telling racist jokes.
  • Five White high school football players in Creston, IA, who donned white hoods, burned a cross, and flew a confederate flag. 
  • A group of White students in Warrensburg, MO, who turned their backs and held up a Trump sign when a predominantly Black visiting basketball team entered the gym. 



Three for Every One
Harvesting Respect programs strive to provide students three positive messages about diversity for every negative one they hear, and thereby help students internalize a sense of respect for every group.
Responding to and Preventing Student Prejudice

As reports of student insensitivity toward historically marginalized groups begin to skyrocket, it's important to recognize that all behavior is based on need, and this student behavior is no exception. While intolerant speech and actions require serious consequences, shame and punishment do not get at the root of the problem. Instead, shame and punishment can reinforce power struggles as youth wrestle with establishing their autonomy. Consequences should enhance student learning whenever possible.

All students do not engage in these behaviors for the same reasons. Some are making attempts at humor or creativity. Others are seeking popularity or belonging. The Navigating Diversity learning program helps educators clarify the needs students are trying to meet, and helps them prevent insensitive acts by educating students about constructive ways to meet their needs.

Students who are the targets of insensitivity can be supported with this information to learn to deflect, rather than internalize negative views about their group.

As we strive to raise children who are respectful of differences, parents and educators are beginning to recognize that it is not enough to avoid speaking and acting in obviously discriminatory ways. The absence of intentionally discriminatory messaging is not the same as promoting equality and respect for all. 

If we don’t intentionally teach inclusion and respect, the void is filled by other influences. When students receive clear messages and expand their familiarity with historically marginalized groups, they are more likely to understand the pain intolerant actions cause, and make healthier choices. 

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