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Schools need same “Zero Tolerance” for hate acts that they have for students of color

              Across the country, Trump supporters have been targeting people who look foreign, threatening their lives and attempting to bar them from entering schools and their jobs. Trump’s half-hearted request for his supporters to “stop it” while at the same time blaming the press for overblowing these racist and islamophobic incidents does little to help solve the problem. It is also true that there have been incidents of Trump supporters being attacked. Everyone who is found to be guilty of any crimes need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, but what about our nation’s students who are harassing other students? What should happen to them?

              From schools like Westland Middle School in Maryland to the Royal Oaks Middle School in Michigan, racist, islamaphobic graffiti has been painted on walls, students have barred Latino students from getting to their lockers and other students have chanted “Build a wall” in their cafeterias. Statements from school leadership basically state that investigations will occur and are fairly vague beyond that. If schools do not implement the same “zero tolerance” and “tough love” policies that they use to discipline students of color, the hypocrisy will speak volumes.

              It has been well documented that across the country, students of color are suspended, expelled, or disciplined in other ways often at 3-4 times the rate of their white counterparts and are disciplined more harshly for the same offenses, even in preschool. Everything from “talking back” to dress code violations have led students of color missing excessive time from school or being excluded from school altogether. Furthermore, Special Education has been seen in many schools than nothing more than a system that prepares students to do a bid in prison because they spend most of their days isolated from the general school population participating in non-intellectual activities. The Justice Department has indeed investigated several of these schools across the country and brought charges to some districts.

              If our nation’s (pre) K-12 institutions that have such a slanted record on school discipline, they must be even more vigilant in the face of intolerance we are seeing now at schools across the country. How can a student be suspended for a “menacing tone” to a teacher but not be suspended for threatening to deport their classmate? How can a student be given in-school suspension for violating a dress code but not for blocking a path for students to enter their school in hate-filled imitation of a wall? How can students be taken out of school in handcuffs for writing on a desk but not severely disciplined when they are found to be the ones who wrote hate-filled language on school grounds?

              President-elect Donald Trump is still receiving kid-glove treatment from the media. He is still has paid surrogates on our news networks spinning every question posed to them. We cannot treat students in our schools who are committing hate crimes or other violent and threatening acts to also be treated with kid gloves just because of the color of their skin or the socio-economic status of their parents. If this country is serious about healing, it starts at home but must spill over into our schools. Our youth need to know that we will move forward as a country with dignity and respect for our fellow man, woman, and especially the child. Too many black and brown students already feel ostracized from their educational enclaves because of the lack of culturally competent educators. They should not now be made to feel ostracized from their country simply by entering their school door. We can and need to do better.

 

We need YOUR leadership now more than ever!

              We are experiencing an extreme crisis of leadership on the part of our politicians. My hope is that all of you who are leaders will realize that we need your skills now more than ever. Our politicians are failing us by the day. Whenever we turn on the news, we see bickering people choosing to become bitter and not better. Stirring up anger and hatred among your base of supporters is not leadership. Never apologizing for mistakes you make is not leadership. Demonstrating an inability to take higher ground when you believe you have been insulted is not leadership. The question is very simple: are you going to be a leader who works to find common ground or a leader who seeks to destroy others on your way to the top? By the way, you should know that only one of these scenarios is actual leadership.

              As President Obama once said, our focus should not be griping over how imperfect our nation is, but rather what it means every day to work on perfecting it. In every corner of influence that you occupy, you have the ability to strike up courageous conversations on pressing issues we face. You have an opportunity each day to challenge bigotry, ignorance, and hate either vocally or even silently by choosing to not be present when ignorance is caught within your earshot. Don’t be a bystander, be an UPstander now and always. This country has only made progress when we all (or most of us) realize that we have more things in common than we do that separate us as human beings. Now is the time find that commonality among us all if we truly believe in uniting this country.