At the end of many Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities programs, students develop action plans to share what they have learned with their schools. They might work to address bullying, reduce cliques, or make a school tradition more inclusive. A group of recent program participants had a particularly challenging problem they wanted to address: how to get teachers to more effectively and consistently address hurtful words.
Last fall, after attending VCIC’s Project Inclusion retreat, these students spent a week cataloging hurtful words and phrases that they heard in the classroom. They then created a video dramatically sharing these words and calling on educators to stand up when they hear them. It was presented earlier this month at a school faculty meeting.
The video stated, “In some cases, your silence can be taken for acceptance. Are these words acceptable in your classrooms? Have you forgotten the power and influence you hold?” They went on to call on their teachers to act, stating, “It matters to us that you not remain silent, but do something to stop the hurtful comments being said in your classrooms.”
Also during the faculty meeting, another group of VCIC student participants presented skits to demonstrate their perception of how different racial groups are treated in the school, and educators participated in an activity focused on class/socio-economic status that had recently been shared with students at VCIC’s Diversity Dialogue Day forum.
The Superintendent responded to the meeting with a very complimentary email. He stated, “The faculty meeting earlier this month was tremendous. I believe the video and skit need to be part of a division conversation.”