Organizing Against Hate

Does he have a right to burn the Koran in front of our school?

Hate incidents — motivated by intense hostility against an entire group on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, immigration status, gender, sexual identity or other group membership — abound in schools.

Hate can include hate speech, hurting someone physically, taunting or hurtful teasing, leaving someone out or saying bad things so others will think less of them, or using online and mobile technology to harm someone emotionally and socially.

While most people associate hate incidents with extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan or White Supremacists, it occurs in everyday life, such as verbal abuse or insults, slurs or ridicule, bullying or cyberbullying, or racist graffiti on the walls.

It often takes the form of beliefs in the superiority of one group over another, such as racism, sexism, nativism, homophobia, anti-Semitism Islamophobia, or other beliefs that become “normalized” unless people challenge them.

Hate often originates in insecurity or fear that other groups will overtake them, such as when white supremacists marched with torches chanting “the Jews will not replace us.”  They had a right to freedom of speech under the law, but then were arrested for punching, kicking and choking anti-racism protesters at white nationalist rallies in Virginia and California.

Immediately after the last presidential election in which one of the candidates labeled white supremacists as “good people,” and expressed racist views against Mexicans — “send them back” —- and Arabs and Arab-Americans — “burn their mosques” — reported a surge of racist language, racial slurs, and the harassment of minority children.  There was an increase in incidents involving swastikas, Nazi salutes and Confederate flags. White boys in a wealthy white suburb of Detroit made a video of themselves with swastikas on their chests.  


  • What does hate mean to you? Have you ever experienced, observed, or heard about acts of hate — such as verbal abuse or insults, slurs or ridicule, bullying or cyberbullying, or racist graffiti on the walls — in your school? What were the causes? How did you respond? How did your school respond?
  • Who has responsibility to do something about hate in the schools? Principal? Teachers? Students? You?
  • Should a school support the victims of hate, start a conversation among students and teachers, or use a hate incident as a vehicle for learning, say by putting together a day in which the entire schools have discussions?
  • If students wanted to join together, discuss the causes and consequences of hate in school, and strategize for social action, what would it be? Should students or teachers join together, and strategize for taking action. What should students do? What should teachers do?
  • What are some examples of bullying in your school? Who are the people that bully others? Why do they bully? What should be done?
  • Hate should never have the last word, but who has responsibility to do something about it?


  • Students Speak Up: What Bias Means to Them: One year after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., middle school students in a neighboring district discuss racial bias.
  • Boston Teens Speak Out About Racism: Teen Empowerment Youth Organizers Kendra Gerald and Dante Omorogbe participated in Boston Mayor Walsh’s November speak-out, “Boston Talks About Racism”.
  • Fighting Racism In School | Bioneers: From Thanksgiving stereotypes to Indian mascots, Native American students face racism from kindergarten through college. In this inspirational panel, four Native youth share personal stories and advice about how to abolish racism in school.


Download the Organizing Against Hate Case Study. 

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