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Promoting Racial Tolerance: How to Get Started

May 19, 2021 Charli Searcy

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This is the first in a series of articles on addressing discrimination and promoting racial equity in schools.

Racial discrimination in context

Fund members are responsible for maintaining fairness in all aspects of their educational programs and activities. Every student must have opportunities to excel, regardless of race, color, sex, or national origin. Because equity and equality drive excellence in every aspect of life, especially education, we must confront one issue that most threatens students’ ability to excel: racism.

Racial discrimination is generally defined as mistreatment or exclusion of another person due to their race, ethnicity, national origin, or skin color. Racism is so deeply embedded in American society that it is virtually impossible to escape, according to Stanford psychologist Steven O. Roberts.

Trends indicate a nationwide problem that is inevitably present in districts and schools. It is important for organizations to proactively address racism and understand that building a culture of tolerance will be a process.

5 ways to get started

We will explore the many forms of racial discrimination in our next article. Now, let’s look at five tips to help you take action.

  1. Identify the issues: You cannot address racial discrimination until you recognize race issues across your organization. Climate surveys gauge the educational environment and help detect weaknesses and disparities, including racial discrimination. TASB Human Resources Services offers an Employee Opinion Survey that helps organizations evaluate their culture. For more information on school climate surveys, visit the National School Climate Center or Panorama Education.
  2. Ask tough questions: Be honest and transparent about race issues in your district and schools, as well as in society. Comfort zones never produce the best results. Consider these questions to get started:
    • What is our district or school doing to ensure the working and learning environment is free from racial bias and intolerance?
    • What can we do better to bring awareness to racial discrimination and promote racial equity?
    • How can we educate our employees and students about racism?
    • How can we support those who have experienced racial discrimination in our district?
  3. Promote dialogue: Establish an open forum where employees and students can talk about racism. Examples include staff meetings, assemblies, book clubs, and other small groups approved by your district or school. Encourage an environment of bold conversation where everyone can learn from each other’s perspectives and life experiences. You could even use this series of articles to inspire dialogue. Fund members can subscribe to our InsideRM newsletter to be notified about future articles.  
  4. Consistency is the key: Even after completing this series, never stop talking about racism and its effects. Continue to gain new perspectives and always take a zero-tolerance stance against racial inequity. In our next article, you will learn how to address discrimination immediately and appropriately.
  5. Explore other TASB resources: Read this TASB article for more information about ensuring fairness and equity for all students. The article shares tips for adopting goals for each student group, monitoring your progress, and constantly refining your plans.

Learn more about promoting racial equity in schools

Do you have questions, need more suggestions, or want to schedule a virtual training on racial discrimination and equity? Contact TASB Legal Liability Risk Consultant Charli Searcy at charli.searcy@tasb.org. Organizations that need legal advice or answers to policy questions are encouraged to contact TASB Legal Services at 800.580.5345 and TASB Policy Service at 800.580.7529.

About the author

TASB Legal Liability Risk Consultant Charli Searcy specializes in the risks facing schools. Her member services include training and consultations on topics such as Title IX, sexual harassment, discrimination, cyberbullying, and student free speech.

Tagged: discrimination, "legal topics"