Creating Safe School Environments

Feb 4, 2017 by

Schools need to have a commitment toward equity, social justice, and cultural consciousness.

With continued anti-immigrant sentiment reflected in our executive branch and now in many states as well as across the globe, school policies compel urgent curricular transformation and a renewal to a commitment toward equity, social justice, and cultural consciousness.

Today’s elementary and secondary schools are flooded with students of diverse backgrounds, cultural traits, needs, abilities and learning styles.

Since the United States is made up of an immigrant population, students must learn respect and appreciation for cultural diversity.  Schools are required to provide equity education for immigrant children.  The school community promotes cultural awareness and understanding and provides opportunities for multicultural and intercultural experiences and activities. Teachers receive training in multicultural education, including bilingual approaches to facilitate the education of all students in a global society.  Looking at education across cultures provides us with a useful opportunity for learning about schools and schooling from another perspective.

Sooner than Later

Schools need to provide in-service training in intercultural education and ensure that all educators are recipients of the training. There needs to be a serious effort and commitment from federal, state, and local governments, as well as coalitions of school personnel with community groups to ensure implementation, evaluation, and continued success of intercultural/multicultural education in schools in the United States and across cultures.

Teachers need to be given the opportunity of teaching in culturally diverse settings to broaden their multicultural abilities. Teacher exchanges among global democracies are valuable experiential means of acquiring intercultural awareness.

The Question of the Hour

What can schools, administrators, and teachers do to provide equitable education for all students? They must ensure an environment that respects and affirms diversity. Periodically, they should survey the school climate. Some primary questions should surface in terms of attitudes, interactions, curriculum, pedagogy and social action plans.

For example, teachers should reflect on the following questions:

Do I teach from an anti-biased perspective and do the curriculum materials present contributions and perspectives of different cultural groups in society and the world, in terms of ethnicity, language, gender, socio economics and/or disability?

Building healthy dispositions toward cultural diversity requires creating caring schools where students and teachers engage in the ethic of caring and developing strategies for conflict resolution and moral decision making. The NEA has a diversity toolkit with educational resources on an array of topics such as race, gender and social justice.

Cultivating Democratic Practices

School environments and curricular policies must be consistent with the ideals of pluralistic democracies.  These ideals include examining issues of equity, diversity and social justice. Schools as agents of society must maximize equal educational opportunities for all students and facilitate constructive societal changes, which will promote respect for human rights and democratic principles as well as shared participation in decision making.

The United States and other nations have a responsibility to all of their citizenry. Nations must recognize the needs and rights of cultural and linguistic minorities and ensure that all citizens are educated and empowered to function effectively in a world community.

The world is hearty. To paraphrase Dr. King on his quest for equity and social justice, “we can either learn to work together or perish like fools.”

Please comment below on what does multicultural education look like in your school or school district.

What is lacking in your school moving towards creating a safe school environment?

Keywords: multicultural, diversity, school principal, democratic school practices

References

NEA. (2015). Diversity Toolkit. Retrieved from:  http://www.nea.org/tools/diversity-toolkit.html

Noddings, Nel. (2003). The Ethic of Care. LA: University of California Press. Retrieved from: https://books.google.com/books/about/Caring.html?id=vkMkLi6pnMYC

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