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May 2, 2014

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo, but Watch Out for the Stereotypes

Cinco de mayoCinco De Mayo  is a fun and festive holiday in the United States, that it is often wrought with problematic choices made by good people just wanting to have a good time and celebrate. Without intending to, people can perpetuate harmful stereotypes of Mexicans at a private party, restaurant, community festival and even in schools.

As Cinco de Mayo festivities commence, it is important to stop and consider whether classroom observances and celebrations in general are inclusive and respectful, and do not promote stereotypical portrayals of groups of people—in this case, Mexicans and Mexican Americans.

Consider that Cinco de Mayo, which means the “5th of May,” is primarily celebrated in the United States, not in Mexico, and commemorates Mexican forces defeating French occupational forces in the Battle of Pueblo in 1862. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is traditionally a celebration of Mexican culture, heritage and pride. When done thoughtfully, the holiday can be an opportunity to explore issues of freedom, culture and identity. It also can be a time when youth receive initial impressions of a culture they may not have exposure to and when stereotypical messages about Mexican people are often reinforced.

Here are a few suggestions that will help create a respectful classroom environment for celebrating Cinco de Mayo.

  • Ensure that classroom content – images, books, etc. – relating to Cinco de Mayo does not promote or reinforce stereotypes about Latinos, especially Mexicans.
  • Seek out curricular content that educates students about the rich diversity of Mexicans and Mexican Americans..Expand your focus beyond the three Fs: festivals, fashion and foods to avoid trivializing the culture’s rich history and people’s experiences.
  • Avoid using images and decorations which reinforce one-dimensional portrayals of Mexicans. Cinco de Mayo is not about sombreros, ponchos and other stereotypical elements of Mexican culture.
  • Be proactive by addressing issues of stereotyping whenever they arise, creating “teachable moments” to discuss issues of stereotyping and discrimination. If a student or colleague invokes stereotypes, either out of ignorance or to get a laugh, address it when you see it.

Helping youth develop an awareness of the rich history and importance of Mexicans in the United States is a worthy endeavor. Combatting bias in youth by challenging stereotypes is a life-skill that will serve them throughout their lives. Visit our ADL Education webpage to download curriculum on a range of bias-related topics.

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August 20, 2013

ADL Coordinates Coalition Letter On Department Of Education Bullying Data Collection Proposal

On June 21, the Department of Education (DoE) announced a number of revisions to its Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) school survey.  The CRDC is the largest, most important, and most comprehensive data collection instrument of its kind.  It requires schools and school districts to provide data on a wide range of relevant education issues.  The DoE proposed that CRDC add sexual orientation and religion to their existing effort to collect data on bullying and harassment on the basis of race, sex, and disability. civil-rights-data-collection-bullying

Accompanying resources for the DoE announcement stated: 

Safe environments are critical to learning. Since the 2009, the CRDC has provided a lens on school climate and the bullying and harassment that students too often endure on the basis of race, sex, and disability….

ADL coordinated a letter from 49 national organizations providing comments relating to these proposed CRDC revisions.  In our comments, ADL and its coalition of education, religious, civil rights and professional organizations supported DoE’s decision to expand the CRDC to include reports of bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and religion, and encouraged the collection of data on incidents based on gender identity. We argued that though the impact of bullying has been well documented, there is insufficient data on the nature and magnitude of bullying directed at individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation – and even less on religion-based and gender identity-based bullying.  

ADL and its allies also urged the Department to reconsider their proposal to eliminate questions relating to whether a school has adopted written bullying prevention policies.  An essential starting point for effective response to bullying and harassment in schools is the adoption of a comprehensive, inclusive bullying and harassment prevention policy.  The inclusion of questions relating to whether an education unit has such a policy, the coalition argued, elevates awareness of the value of these policies and demonstrates that having such policies is important and significant enough to highlight in the CRDC.  The coalition letter also urged the Department of Education to ask the education units that have adopted a bullying and harassment prevention policy to provide a link to their policy as part of their CRDC response.

A top priority for the Anti-Defamation League is working to create safe, inclusive schools and communities and ensuring that all students have access to equal educational opportunities.  Over the past decade, the League has emerged as a principal national resource developing education and advocacy tools to prevent prejudice and bigotry. ADL has built on award-winning anti-bias education and training initiatives, including the A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute, to craft innovative programming and advocacy to address bullying and its pernicious electronic form known as cyberbullying.  ADL takes a holistic approach to addressing bullying and cyberbullying, tracking the nature and magnitude of the problem, developing education and training programs, and advocating – at the state and federal level – for policies and programs that can make a difference.

It will be incumbent on ADL and our allies to work with schools and school districts to make sure schools and school districts are reporting this data accurately – and using the data to improve the climate for learning for all students.

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December 17, 2012

How Do We Talk to the Children?

The recent news of the shootings of 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut has had a devastating impact on both youth and adults across the country. In the face of this senseless violence, many are at a loss to find the words to express the depth of their feelings. Despite our best efforts to protect children from the details of such incidents, they are often more aware than we imagine of what is happening in the world around them. When frightening and violent incidents occur, children and teens are likely to experience a range of emotions, including fear, confusion, sadness and anger that can manifest in many different ways.

To counteract fear and help children feel safe, parents, teachers and caregivers can provide opportunities for children to express how they feel and channel their feelings into positive actions. In order to provide the reassurance and guidance they may need, it’s important for adults to realize the impact of these kinds of events on them personally and to come to terms with their own feelings.  Before talking to your children, take time to process your own feelings and perceptions with other adults.

Be alert to signs of upset in your children, which can include withdrawal and a lack of interest in engaging in activities, excessive acting out, fear of going to school and other behaviors that seem out of the ordinary, and provide a quiet time for them to ask any questions they may have.  Above all, reassure children in age-appropriate ways that they are safe. When talking to preschoolers, for example, your response can be simple and direct: “I love you and I will always do everything I can to make you safe.”

Difficult situations like this can be an opportunity to discuss family and community values, beliefs and traditions. You can find some helpful guidelines for talking to children in the aftermath of hate and violence at:

http://www.adl.org/issue_education/Hate_and_violence.asp

http://www.adl.org/education/discussing_hate_spanish.pdf (Spanish version)

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