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A School Comes Together
When racist graffiti was found at Tamalpais High School, students, parents, and teachers fought back. They made chalk drawings, held protests, and hung signs. These actions showed that hate is not welcome in their community.

From Left: Thomas K. Dahlke; Used with permission of Marin Independent Journal Copyright© 2018. All rights reserved.

CCSS

R.1, R.2, R.3, R.4, R.7, W.2, SL.1, L.6 

The School That Stood Up to Hate

What happens when a school is faced with a hateful act—one that targets students of a certain race or religion? Here’s how one California high school fought back and came out stronger. 

    Sometimes a few words can cause great pain. 

    Just ask the students at Tamalpais High School in California. On a warm summer day, three words of graffiti were found on a school building. In black paint, someone had written the n-word. Next to it was the name of the school’s African American principal, J.C. Farr.

    The following day, students, parents, and teachers protested. They carried signs that read, “Hate Has No Place at Tam.” But the racist graffiti had made its mark. “I never expected anything like this to happen,” said Noah Haynesworth. He’s an African American student at Tam High. “It made many of us feel unsafe.”

    Hateful words can hurt people. 

    It recently happened at Tamalpais High School in California. It was a warm summer day. Graffiti was found on a school building. The graffiti was made up of three words. The words were written in black paint. The first word was the n-word. The next words were “J.C. Farr.” He is the school’s African American principal.

    The next day, students, parents, and teachers got together. They protested. They carried signs. The signs said, “Hate Has No Place at Tam.” But the racist graffiti had already hurt people. “I never expected anything like this to happen,” said Noah Haynesworth. He is African American. He is a student at Tam High. “It made many of us feel unsafe.”

    Sometimes a few words can cause great pain. 

    The students at Tamalpais High School in California recently experienced this. On a warm summer day, three words written in black paint were found on a school building. The graffiti included the n-word followed by the name of the school’s African American principal, J.C. Farr.

    The following day, students, parents, and teachers protested the hateful action by carrying signs that read, “Hate Has No Place at Tam.” But the racist graffiti had made its mark. “I never expected anything like this to happen,” said Noah Haynesworth, an African American student at Tam High. “It made many of us feel unsafe.”

Hate on the Rise

    Students at Tam High are not alone. Hate incidents are on the rise in schools around the country. Hate incidents are hateful words or acts that unfairly target people because of their race, religion, or another part of who they are. 

    Every month, dozens of hurtful acts like the one at Tam High are reported in newspapers. Dozens more never make the news. In one survey, 25 percent of kids said they had seen hateful graffiti at school. 

    Hate incidents in schools take many different forms. And they target many different groups. Last fall, swastikas were found on school walls in Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois. (The swastika is a symbol of hatred against Jewish people.) In Massachusetts, a Muslim student received a threatening note. And in New Jersey, fans at a school soccer game yelled at Latino players to “speak English.”

    Students at other schools are experiencing hate too. Hate incidents are on the rise. A hate incident is a hateful word or act. It unfairly targets people because of their race, religion, or another part of who they are. 

    Every month, many hateful acts at schools are in the news. But many more don’t make the news. A survey showed that one in four kids had seen hateful graffiti at school.

    Hate incidents in schools can happen in different ways. And they can target different groups. Last fall, swastikas were found on school walls in three states. (The swastika is a symbol. It shows hatred against Jewish people.) In Massachusetts, someone gave a Muslim student a hateful note. And in New Jersey, fans at a school soccer game yelled at the Latino players. The fans yelled, “Speak English.”

    Students at Tam High are not alone—hate incidents are on the rise in schools around the country. Hate incidents are hateful words or acts that unfairly target people because of their race, religion, or another part of who they are. 

    Every month, dozens of hurtful acts like the one at Tam High are reported in newspapers. However, dozens more never make the news. In one survey, 25 percent of kids said they had seen hateful graffiti at school. 

    Hate incidents in schools take many different forms, and they target many different groups. Last fall, swastikas were discovered on school walls in Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois. (The swastika is a symbol of hatred against Jewish people.) In Massachusetts, a Muslim student received a threatening note, and in New Jersey, fans at a school soccer game yelled at Latino players to “speak English.”

It’s No Joke

    Why would someone draw a swastika on a wall or shout hateful comments? Sometimes the people responsible are expressing real hatred.  Other times they claim they are “just joking.” 

    But experts say that when it comes to hate, there’s no such thing as a joke. Maureen Costello is the head of Teaching Tolerance, a group that helps schools fight hate. “Often the defense is ‘I didn’t mean it,’” she says. “But to the person it’s directed at, it feels like hate.”

    Most hate incidents in schools don’t involve physical violence. And they’re not usually considered crimes. It’s not illegal to say hurtful things to someone. But according to experts, hate is much more damaging than ordinary bullying. Bullying affects only the person who is targeted. Hateful words or actions make entire groups of people feel unsafe.

    Why would someone draw a swastika on a wall? Why write a hateful note? Why shout hateful words? Sometimes people are showing real hate. Sometimes they say they’re joking. 

    But experts say hate is no joke. Maureen Costello is the head of Teaching Tolerance. This group helps schools fight hate. “Often the defense is ‘I didn’t mean it,’” she says. “But to the person it’s directed at, it feels like hate.”

    Most hate incidents in schools don’t involve physical violence. So the incidents are not considered crimes. It’s not illegal to say hurtful things. But experts say hate does more harm than regular bullying. Bullying affects only the person who is bullied. Hateful words or actions make whole groups feel unsafe.

    Why would someone draw a swastika on a wall, write a hateful note, or shout hateful comments? Sometimes the perpetrators are expressing real hatred. But, other times they claim they are “just joking.” 

    However, experts explain that when it comes to hate, there’s no such thing as a joke. Maureen Costello is the head of Teaching Tolerance, a group that helps schools fight hate. “Often the defense is ‘I didn’t mean it. But to the person it’s directed at, it feels like hate,” she points out.

    Physical violence isn’t usually a part of hate incidents at schools. As a result, they’re not usually considered crimes because it’s not illegal to say hurtful things to someone. But according to experts, hate is much more damaging than traditional bullying. Bullying affects only the person who is targeted, but hateful words or actions make entire groups of people feel unsafe.

Responding to Hate

    What should you do if you see a hate incident happen? Experts say it’s important to show that hate is not welcome in your school. Sometimes, that means telling a bully, “That’s not cool.” But that isn’t always easy. So you can also simply talk to the person who is targeted. This can help them feel less alone.  

    In some cases, students have planned larger protests. Others have organized diversity groups that meet after school. At Tam High, there was a public meeting about the graffiti.  Noah made sure he spoke up. To him, it was important for students of color to have a voice. “There isn’t a ton of diversity at Tam,” he says. “Speaking up allowed us to give other students a perspective unlike their own.”

    What should you do if you see a hate incident? Experts say you should show that you don’t like it. You can tell a bully, “That’s not cool.” Or you can talk to the person who is targeted. This can help them feel less alone.  

    Some students have planned protests. Others have started diversity groups. At Tam High, there was a meeting about the graffiti. Noah spoke up. He wanted students of color to have a voice. “There isn’t a ton of diversity at Tam,” he says. “Speaking up allowed us to give other students a perspective unlike their own.”

    What should you do if you witness a hate incident? Experts say it’s important to make it clear that hate is not welcome in your school. Sometimes, that means telling a bully, “That’s not cool.” But that isn’t always easy, so you can also simply talk to the person who is targeted and help them feel less alone.  

    In some cases, students have organized protests. Others have formed diversity groups that meet after school. At the public meeting about the graffiti at Tam High, Noah made sure he spoke up. To him, students of color having a voice was important. “There isn’t a ton of diversity at Tam,” he says. “Speaking up allowed us to give other students a perspective unlike their own.”

Hilary Swift/The New York Times/Redux

In The News
Hate is on the rise across America. In October, a shooter killed 11 Jewish people in Pittsburgh. Here, people remember the victims with flowers and signs.

Speaking Out

    At Tam High, students found another way to make their voices heard. When school opened after the incident, a new kind of graffiti decorated the school’s pathways. Students had drawn rainbows and flowers in chalk. And there were messages: “TAM UNITY,” “NO HATE.”

    Glo Robinson is a student of color who helped make the chalk drawings. Since the incident, she has organized meetings about diversity in her community. “We have to let people know that tolerance is important,” she says.

    At Tam High, students spoke up in another way. When the school opened after the incident, there was a new kind of graffiti on the sidewalks. Students had drawn rainbows and flowers in chalk. There were words too: “TAM UNITY,” “NO HATE.”

    Glo Robinson is a student of color at Tam. She helped make the chalk drawings. She also planned meetings about diversity. “We have to let people know that tolerance is important,” she says. 

    At Tam High, students made their voices heard in another way too. When school opened after the incident, a new kind of graffiti decorated the school’s pathways. Students had drawn rainbows and flowers in chalk, along with positive messages, such as “TAM UNITY” and “NO HATE.”

    Glo Robinson is a student of color who helped make the chalk drawings and who has also organized meetings about diversity in her community. “We have to let people know that tolerance is important,” she says.

ACTIVITY: 
5 Questions About
Hate Incidents

What to do: Answer the questions below. Use full sentences.

What to do: Answer the questions below. Use full sentences.

What to do: Answer the questions below. Use full sentences.

What is a hate incident?

What is a hate incident?

What is a hate incident?

Why are hate incidents so damaging?

Why are hate incidents so damaging?

Why are hate incidents so damaging?

Where did racist graffiti show up on a warm summer day?

Where did racist graffiti show up on a warm summer day?

Where did racist graffiti show up on a warm summer day?

Who was the target of the racist graffiti at Tam High?  

Who was the target of the racist graffiti at Tam High?  

Who was the target of the racist graffiti at Tam High?  

How did students at Tam High show that hate is not welcome at their school?

How did students at Tam High show that hate is not welcome at their school?

How did students at Tam High show that hate is not welcome at their school?

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