Six African-American high school students targeted for excessive criminal justice prosecution in Jena, Louisiana, will continue to be in the news for some time to come, and that’s a good thing, because we all need to think hard about the attitudes and events that led to the exposure of a racially biased local social structure, including its criminal justice system.
After thinking, we need to do some working.
According to Howard Witt, a national news reporter for The Baltimore Sun, U.S. Justice Department officials told members of a House Judiciary Committee this past Tuesday that they “are weighing an investigation into allegations of systemic racial bias in the administration of justice in the small, mostly white Louisiana town.” (Click here for the article.)
While the Justice Department investigates, what can we teachers do to mitigate and eliminate racial bias in our schools and communities?
The Southern Poverty Law Center has a web project called Fight Hate And Promote Tolerance. Here they present Six Lessons from Jena, that you can use now in your classroom. If you followed the news story, the logic of the lessons will not surprise you.
Teacher Magazine reports, “According to a 2006 survey conducted by Teaching Tolerance, the National Education Association, and the Civil Rights Project, most teachers claim their schools are free of ethnic or racial bias, yet federal studies reveal that one in four students are victims of racial or ethnic incidents during the course of the school year.”
Take this opportunity to help eliminate racial bias in your community, and give us your assessment of the effectiveness of the lessons from The Southern Poverty Law Center.