ALBANY, NY 12234


October 4, 2001

To: District Superintendents
Superintendents of Public and Nonpublic Schools, for distribution to staff

From: Richard P. Mills

Subject: Response to the Events of September 11 / Emphasizing Tolerance

Emergency Response PlansCounseling & Mental Health Resources

Since the horrific events of September 11, I have heard many examples of ways in which this state's educators responded magnificently. Teachers and aides rode the buses that afternoon, and did not return to their own families until they knew each child was safe and cared for. Others stayed in their classrooms through the night to provide a safe haven for children who had nowhere to go, or who were alone. Nurses, counselors, principals and teachers provided their students with opportunities to talk about what they had experienced and how it made them feel, responding to their concerns with honesty and respect, and giving them ways to channel their anxiety into positive action. School staff reached out to colleagues who had lost loved ones, or who were unsure how to deal with their students' losses. On behalf of the Board of Regents, and, more importantly, on behalf of the children, I give you my sincere thanks for all you have done and will continue to do over the days and weeks ahead. Please extend my thanks to all members of your school community.

To support you in your efforts, we have provided you with advisories and other resources. We are now sending you additional resources in response to your identified needs. This memo will include information that we hope will be helpful to you in addressing one of the key issues schools are facing, the need to promote tolerance and to make students of all races, religions and national origins feel safe and respected in school. We know that many Arab-American and Muslim children are afraid to be outside, upset by hateful words and misguided actions. Our leaders have set the right tone by rebuking such shameful behavior; we must now continue to do all we can to keep it out of our schools.

We will also be sending you additional information on safety planning as well as resources to support you in dealing with the emotional / psychological impact of this tragedy. I hope you find these resources helpful. As needs emerge within your schools, please contact the Comprehensive Health and Pupil Services Team at (518) 486-6090, and we will do our best to provide you with resources to address them.

Guidelines for Dealing with Childrenís Discriminatory
Exclusion Behaviors

(adapted from Anti-Bias Curriculum Ė Tools for Empowering Young Children,
National Association for the Education of Young Children

Then take further action with the excluder: Tell the child, "In this classroom itís not OK to refuse to play with another child because he is [_________]. Try to learn more about the thinking underlying the childís bias.



When handling discriminatory behavior:

Donít ignore. "It will go away on its own if I donít respond." This position does not support the target of discriminatory behavior and implies permission to act in discriminatory ways, thereby making the environment unsafe.

"If I respond, it will make things worse." It is true that some children will test these limits as they do others. However, we would not ignore throwing blocks or sand in childrenís faces because we are worried that intervention will make the behaviors worse. We act, thereby reaffirming our limits.

Donít excuse. Saying, "Johnny didnít really mean it or know what he meant when he said Susan couldnít play because she is a tomboy," or "Johnny has socializing problems; letís not focus on this remark," excuses discriminatory behavior. Conversely, saying, "Susan wasnít upset by Johnnyís remarks. She just walked away," trivializes the excluded childís feelings. Excusing responses teaches one child it is OK to be hurtful and the other that she will not be protected against oppressive behavior.

Donít be immobilized by fear. Making a mistake is far less serious than not acting at all. You can always go back to a child and say or do something else if, on reflection, you feel you didnít respond correctly. However, if you were unable to respond immediately at all, think about what to do afterward, and go back to the children involved in the incident.

Additional Web Resources

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is a civil rights organization committed to defending the rights of people of Arab descent and promoting their rich cultural heritage. ADC is at the forefront combating defamation and negative stereotyping of Arab Americans in the media and wherever else it is practiced. Site Includes "Advice to Arab-American Parents - Helping Children Cope"(09/14/2001) and "Advice to Educators from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee."

A new resource guide from National PTA provides workshops, program ideas and best practices to educate and support programs that address diversity and teach respect for all differences. A comprehensive list of resources and organizations that promote tolerance, respect, and sensitivity toward different racial and cultural groups is included. Two documents of particular interest: "What To Tell Your Child About Prejudice And Discrimination" (en EspaŮol also) and "Respecting Differences." Crisis Response Page.html

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Last Updated: April 30, 2004 12:57 PM
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