Local teachers using increase of hate speech, bias cases as teac - KPTV - FOX 12

Local teachers using increase of hate speech, bias cases as teaching tool

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A tumultuous year in American politics and political discussion left an imprint on local schools, with several incidents throughout the school year involving bias or hate speech.

At Hood River Middle School, for example, an assembly around Halloween took a sinister turn, with several students chanting "build a wall."

"Kids went home and they talked to the parents about how uncomfortable it made them," said Dan Goldman, Hood River County Schools Superintendent.

Incidents involving bias speech or graffiti were also reported at schools in Beaverton, Portland, and Oregon City.

The incidents appear to mirror a national trend.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks bias incidents, reported close to 1,400 such events in just the three months following the last presidential election.

"I think what's happened is a lot of folks who had those attitudes feel they have a green light to express them because there's this anti-political correctness rhetoric that's happening," said Randy Blazak, a PSU professor who also serves as chairman of the Coalition Against Hate Crimes.

Blazak said he has seen an uptick in reports of bias speech this year, including the hateful barrage against two teenagers on a MAX train that led to the slashing deaths of two men.

"The MAX incident really kind of tore the scab off Portland in terms of how progressive we thought we are in this sort of bubble," said Blazak.

Goldman said with the political atmosphere so highly charged, it should be no surprise school-age kids have a hard time processing their feelings.

At Hood River Middle School, teachers and administrators used the October incident as a teaching tool.

"We pulled kids together for an assembly and talked about how kids feel, and what it means to chant things that are hurtful to kids, no matter what your political bent might be," said Goldman.

After the incident, Goldman said middle school students produced a video titled "I Believe," which promoted tolerance and acceptance.

At a time when the country is in the midst of what could be described as an identity crisis, Goldman said educating kids about civility and tolerance will likely take more than one lesson.

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