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January 31, 2014 1

Derrick Coleman: Creating Conversation About Differences

The Super Bowl is arguably one of the biggest days in Amer­i­can sports, and with good rea­son. In addi­tion to being a com­pe­ti­tion of the best two foot­ball teams in the most pop­u­lar sport in Amer­ica, this year it is also the kind of cel­e­bra­tion not often asso­ci­ated with pro­fes­sional sports.

Der­rick Cole­man, a run­ning back for the Seat­tle Sea­hawks, is the only legally deaf ath­lete in pro­fes­sional foot­ball his­tory to play offense. In early Jan­u­ary 2014, Cole­man served as the inspi­ra­tion for a major brand’s com­mer­cial where he talks about the impact his hear­ing impair­ment has had on his life. The video went viral and in less than a week, and had 5.5 mil­lion views.

Coleman’s per­sonal story pro­vides an excel­lent teach­ing oppor­tu­nity to dis­cuss dis­abil­i­ties and the impor­tance of safe­guard­ing the rights and dig­nity of peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties in our com­mu­ni­ties and around the world. As the U.S. Sen­ate debates whether to rat­ify an inter­na­tional treaty on dis­abil­ity rights , Derrick’s story pro­vides an oppor­tu­nity to put a human face on the impact that treaty can have on people’s lives.

Edu­ca­tion can be for­mal and infor­mal. We have cre­ated a new class­room les­son for teach­ers, but adults can cre­ate a les­son in their own liv­ing rooms dur­ing the Super Bowl. Here are a few ques­tions to the get the con­ver­sa­tion going with your friends and family.

  • Do you know what a dis­abil­ity is?
  • What’s unique about Der­rick Coleman?
  • What do you think it’s like to feel you are dif­fer­ent from every­one else?
  • What are some ways you could help oth­ers who are treated unfairly because they are different?

It’s not nec­es­sary to have all the answers.  The very act of cre­at­ing a con­ver­sa­tion about dif­fer­ence is a healthy and pro­duc­tive way to raise aware­ness that being dif­fer­ent is ok, and is in fact some­thing to celebrate.

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January 14, 2014 0

Watershed Federal Guidance on School Discipline Seeks to Dismantle School-to-Prison Pipeline

Sus­pen­sions and expul­sions are among the best pre­dic­tors of which stu­dents will drop out of high school.  Stud­ies show that a stu­dent who has been sus­pended at least once is more than three times more likely to drop out of high school in the first two years than a stu­dent who has never been sus­pended.  A young adult who drops out of high school is more than 63 times more likely to become incar­cer­ated later in life than some­one who grad­u­ates from col­lege, feed­ing the pipeline from the school­house to the jail­house.

Last week the Depart­ment of Jus­tice and the Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion jointly issued ground­break­ing guid­ance on school dis­ci­pline, tak­ing a cru­cial, pos­i­tive step toward dis­man­tling the “school-to-prison” pipeline.  As the Dear Col­league guid­ance noted, harsh school dis­ci­pline poli­cies dis­pro­por­tion­ately impact stu­dents of color, stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties, and LGBT stu­dents.  Recent data from the Civil Rights Data Col­lec­tion (CRDC), an impor­tant annual fed­eral school sur­vey wel­comed by the Anti-Defamation League, found that African-American stu­dents with­out dis­abil­i­ties are more than three times as likely as their white peers to be sus­pended or expelled from school.  Research sug­gests that these racial dis­par­i­ties can­not be explained by more fre­quent or more seri­ous mis­be­hav­ior by stu­dents of color.  To the con­trary, fed­eral inves­ti­ga­tions have found “cases where African-American stu­dents were dis­ci­plined more harshly and more fre­quently because of their race than sim­i­larly sit­u­ated white stu­dents.”  Other stud­ies con­firm that stu­dents of color tend to receive harsher pun­ish­ment for less seri­ous behav­ior, and are more often pun­ished for sub­jec­tive offenses, such as “loi­ter­ing” or “disrespect.”

Why are some stu­dents of color, stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties and LGBT stu­dents treated more harshly than their peers for sim­i­lar behav­ior? Some might sus­pect overt racism, but uncon­scious bias and latent prej­u­dice per­pe­trated unin­ten­tion­ally may often lead to harsher pun­ish­ments, even when teach­ers, admin­is­tra­tors, or school resource offi­cers are unaware of what is hap­pen­ing. Cur­rent research tells us that uncon­scious bias plays a sig­nif­i­cant role in our daily inter­ac­tions and under­stand­ing of daily occur­rences.  Poli­cies alone will not change that. The best pre­ven­tion is edu­ca­tion.  Bias is learned and can be unlearned. Cre­at­ing safe, inclu­sive schools requires edu­ca­tors, stu­dents, and the com­mu­ni­ties to under­stand what hap­pens when bias goes unchecked. We urge edu­ca­tors to uti­lize the Depart­ment of Education’s Guid­ing Prin­ci­ples of Reform to Improve School Cli­mate and Dis­ci­pline, which offers con­crete action steps nec­es­sary to sup­port the spirit of the new pol­icy. Among other help­ful rec­om­men­da­tions, the fed­eral Guid­ance urges schools to pro­vide com­pre­hen­sive train­ing for all school per­son­nel and law enforce­ment offi­cers sta­tioned in schools.

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January 7, 2014 2

Just Ask the Kids About Bullying

Youth are the real experts on what is hap­pen­ing in bul­ly­ing on school cam­puses, and yet their voices, per­spec­tives and lead­er­ship are rarely inte­grated into bul­ly­ing pre­ven­tion programs.

Use stu­dent voices as a part of the solution

“Just ask the kids” is the tagline for a new book high­light­ing research from the Youth Voice Project, the first large-scale research project on bul­ly­ing and peer mis­treat­ment that did exactly that—ask the kids (more than 13,000 teens in 31 schools).  And when you think about it, isn’t it obvious?

For the nearly 25 years of imple­ment­ing train­ing and work­shops nation­ally with youth of all ages through ADL’s A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Insti­tute, the stu­dents reg­u­larly echo the same sen­ti­ment. “Adults don’t under­stand.” And “No one lis­tens to us.”

For ADL, involv­ing stu­dents was a no-brainer and inte­gral to our work. Using stu­dent voices as a part of the solu­tion is a strength that schools every­where should be uti­liz­ing.  One exam­ple of that strength was high­lighted when four youths, all stu­dent lead­ers from Gris­som High School in Huntsville, AL, pre­sented on the impact of ADL’s No Place for Hate® cam­paign ini­tia­tive at the Inter­na­tional Bul­ly­ing Pre­ven­tion Asso­ci­a­tion Con­fer­ence.

Even more impor­tant than the specifics the stu­dents shared about the great work they have done in imple­ment­ing their No Place for Hate ini­tia­tive, the stu­dents pro­vided very thought­ful and impor­tant advice about what  adults can—and need—to do to bet­ter sup­port stu­dents in cre­at­ing an inclu­sive and wel­com­ing school culture.

More than any­thing, they said, stu­dents want the adults in their schools to be bet­ter role mod­els, and to take these issues as seri­ously as the stu­dents. We can’t ask stu­dents to make a com­mit­ment that the adults are not also making!

The Gris­som High School team looks for­ward to shar­ing this pre­sen­ta­tion at other fac­ulty meet­ings and venues.  They have also asked to be part of a group to review and revise their district’s anti-bullying policy.

And once you have stu­dent experts, THEY can help design and lead pro­grams for fam­i­lies.  Adult fam­ily mem­bers will come out more often when their kids have a role in a pro­gram, so it’s a great way to get par­ent and fam­ily involve­ment, and open that impor­tant dia­logue among fam­ily members.

It takes real, hon­est dia­logue among stu­dents AND adults to make last­ing and sig­nif­i­cant changes.

For more ideas about what stu­dents think teach­ers should know, check out ADL’s tips on 10 Things Stu­dent Wish Teach­ers Knew.


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