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April 26, 2016

New ADL Resources for Safe and Respectful Schools

high school students and tabletsFears of extremism, radicalization and mass violence in our schools have unfortunately become all too common for educators and school administrators across the United States. At the same time, information that allows educators to understand the threat and leaves them equipped to address it without perpetuating biases and stereotypes is scarce. In order to fill this gap, the Anti-Defamation League and START (the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism), have created a backgrounder providing accurate, empirically tested information on understanding mass violence and extremism for educators and school administrators.

The new backgrounder is designed to enable educators to be better equipped to understand and appropriately respond to observable warning signs and to implement programs that foster safe school communities.

By combining topics of mass violence and violent extremism into one document, the backgrounder strives to provide comprehensive information that is relevant as well as appropriate for all school districts. It emphasizes the creation of a three-pronged strategy to decrease risk for both radicalization and mass violence in schools, through:

  1. Awareness of observable warning signs,
  2. Development of school programs encouraging respect and inclusion, and
  3. Implementation of curriculum resources teaching students to be safe and conscientious consumers of online material.

The document provides fact-based evidence, emphasizing a goal of prevention rather than prediction in order to ensure a wide safety net. At the same time, by highlighting the fact that feelings of isolation and marginalization often play a precipitating role in radicalization and violence, the document makes clear that programs encouraging inclusion and discouraging bias are at the core of any successful strategy for creating safe schools.

In conjunction with this backgrounder, ADL has also released a new Current Events Classroom lesson for high school students entitled Outsmarting Propaganda: Combatting the Lure of Extremist Recruitment Strategies. Produced with additional assistance from START, this curriculum provides the resources for students to utilize critical thinking when faced with propaganda and messaging they encounter online, increasing their ability to recognize and resist extremist propaganda and recruitment strategies.  A parallel resource for families, Propaganda, Extremism and Recruitment Tactics, guides adult family members in having conversations with their children about terrorist exploitation of the Internet and online propaganda – again, a crucial first step in ensuring that young people are less susceptible to dangerous propaganda and recruitment techniques.

As young people, parents and teachers are discussing violence, extremism and terrorism, it is important that they don’t fall prey to stereotyping and scapegoating that can sometimes accompany these conversations. In ADL’s anti-bias work, we provide students with skills to understand the language of bias, be critical thinkers, counter bias, bigotry and stereotyping and learn how to be an ally.

ADL has created a new webpage called Finding the Balance: Countering Extremism and Combating Stereotypes that is designed to serve as a comprehensive resource by pairing these new items with its extensive array of materials for parents and teachers on teaching and discussing terrorism, hate and violence, bigotry, and scapegoating, as well as resources for creating inclusive, bias-free classrooms. The new site also includes background information on extremism and terrorism in the U.S. produced by the ADL’s Center on Extremism.

Together, these materials will help to fill a crucial gap for both parents and educators by providing fact-based resources, curricula, and backgrounders that can equip them to develop inclusive and safe schools, resistant to violence and extremism and respectful of all students.



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January 7, 2014

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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