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Educational Organizations

A photo of a demonstration where a student holds a sign that says "we are students"


CRS provides support to public and private secondary schools, colleges, and universities who are experiencing tension or conflicts based on actual or perceived race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability. Some ways CRS assists educational organizations are:

  • Facilitating programs that help students, parents, teachers, and administrators identify the underlying issues of school conflicts; develop problem-solving and decision-making skills; and increase trust, understanding, and collaboration within the school community
  • Helping faculty, administrators, and students develop mechanisms for preventing and responding to hate or bias-motivated crimes, incidents, and tensions, including the development of action plans and school-based working groups
  • Bringing together administrators, staff, educators, and students to discuss perceived tensions, alleged incidents of bullying, and alleged hate crimes in schools, colleges, universities, and other educational institutions

Below are some recent examples of CRS's work with educational organizations. Additional case summaries may be found within CRS’s Annual Reports, located on the CRS Resource Center webpage.

Case Highlights

The Dover School District in Dover, New Hampshire, requested CRS services in December 2019 in response to increased community racial tension caused by a racially offensive video that was posted on social media. The video depicted two white students in a Dover High School classroom singing a Ku Klux Klan-themed Christmas carol as part of a November 2018 class project about the Civil War Reconstruction era. Following the incident, CRS met with the Dover School District superintendent and Dover High School principal, at the request of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Hampshire, to assist the school in addressing the underlying racial tensions.

To help de-escalate tensions in the school community, Dover High School administration officials asked CRS to plan a CRS School-Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (School-SPIRIT) program. CRS worked with school administrators, teachers, staff, and students to explore ways to help increase participation in the upcoming SPIRIT program from a diverse group of students.

School leaders presented an overview of the SPIRIT program at four assemblies, one for each grade level, and requested student volunteers to participate in the program. The school also invited all students to respond to a survey to identify the issues they considered most important to be discussed during the SPIRIT program. Approximately 95 student leaders participated in the one-day program, which was held in February 2020 and facilitated by 24 CRS-trained volunteers. In small groups, the students identified their top concerns as perceived racism, a lack of cultural diversity, and the need for diverse and inclusive classroom services and a more welcoming environment for students of color. The students then met in new breakout groups to develop solutions to the identified concerns and propose a plan of action. These working groups identified solutions such as encouraging safe environments for students and teachers to respectfully share and address sensitive subjects for students; providing training on cultural awareness and diversity; and conducting teacher workshops related to the use of social media, mental health, and other current topics to provide teachers with tools to address issues that their students faced.

At the end of the program, student volunteers formed a SPIRIT council, and the principal expressed support for the work the council will do to implement some of the solutions developed during the day’s program. The council is expected to begin its work as soon as COVID-19 social distancing protocols allow.

In February 2020, CRS conducted a Campus-Site Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (Campus-SPIRIT) program at Kansas State University (K-State) in response to community tensions caused by Black students’ concerns of marginalization on campus and in the community based on race. CRS had already been working with the university to help address prior community concerns stemming back several years.

In 2017, a resident reported finding racist slurs painted on a car near K-State, which caused fear among students and other community members. In response, the university conducted a series of diversity events and hired a chief diversity and inclusion officer, who led university efforts to create KSUnite, a conference on diversity, equity, and inclusion. This annual event strives to create more diverse and inclusive educational opportunities and respond to the race-based issues and tensions at the university.

Through discussions with students, K-State officials determined that the slurs were just one element of an undercurrent of Black student concerns that needed to be addressed. Although local law enforcement had determined that the 2017 incident and another in 2018 involving a racist note posted on an apartment door were hoaxes, school officials felt it was important to respond to the fears and tensions expressed by the university’s Black community. To do so, K-State’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion requested that CRS conduct a Campus-SPIRIT program. In May 2019, CRS, in coordination with the K-State Department of Diversity and Multicultural Student Affairs and the student-led Intercultural Leadership Council, formed a group composed of school administrators, faculty, students, and other key campus leaders to plan the program. CRS provided facilitator training to six student members of the Intercultural Leadership Council who volunteered to help conduct the program.

The SPIRIT program created the opportunity for students to share their concerns about racial tensions on campus and begin the process of identifying solutions. During the session, the K-State vice president for student life/dean of students and the associate vice president for student life delivered opening remarks summarizing their hopes for the Campus-SPIRIT program and the impact that it would have to enable K-State to achieve its diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. The SPIRIT participants— approximately 36 administrators, faculty, staff, and students from various organizations—identified the recruitment and retention of students, staff, and faculty; accessibility; and improvement to KSUnite as priority issues. Volunteers created a SPIRIT council, which developed an action plan to implement some of the proposed solutions, including inviting speakers to campus to address diversity and inclusion topics. In addition, informed by the SPIRIT report, the university developed an nine-point plan to lead to a more inclusive campus environment. The 2020 KSUnite Conference, held in October, included several speakers who addressed diversity and inclusion issues. The university has begun work on several other items, including creating a student ombudsman office and a “Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation” framework, and plans to continue implementing its action plan as soon as COVID-19 social distancing protocols allow meetings to continue.

In October 2019, CRS conducted an outreach presentation at a “gathering of principals” meeting at Anchorage School District headquarters. Following the presentation, South Anchorage High School administrators expressed interest in implementing the School-Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (School-SPIRIT) program to teach students about conflict resolution and help prevent bias incidents and hate crimes at the school.

CRS received reports of widespread alleged bias incidents and racial conflict, including the use of racial slurs and student-on-student assaults, particularly against Latino, Black, and multiracial students in several Anchorage schools. Community members alleged that the racial conflict was a reaction to a recent influx of immigrants and refugees. The Greater Anchorage area is one of the most diverse in the country, with more than 100 languages spoken within its student population.3 This demographic shift heightened the ongoing and growing tensions that were negatively impacting the Anchorage School District.

CRS convened local school stakeholders to plan the School-SPIRIT program for South Anchorage High School, the first school in the state’s history to implement the program. CRS provided training to eight volunteer facilitators from the Alaska Native Justice Center, Bridge Builders of Anchorage, Polynesian Association of Alaska, Victims for Justice, and a local faith community and local non-governmental organization.

In February 2020, CRS facilitated the program over two days for approximately 90 Black, Asian American and Pacific Islander, white, Latino, and multiracial student leaders in grades nine through 12. A representative from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska attended the program to observe and assist, as necessary. For the first session, participants divided into five groups to identify the school’s strengths and areas of concern, which included the widespread use of racial and ethnic slurs and bullying, reportedly without consequence, and a lack of focus on mental health.

On the second day of the program, South Anchorage High School leadership introduced a newly created SPIRIT council of students who committed to support implementing several of the solutions developed by student leaders in the small group sessions that day. Proposed solutions included raising awareness about resources for bullying prevention, conflict resolution and diversity training for teachers, and more opportunities for open dialogue in a safe and welcome environment.

After the program, student leaders expressed their gratitude toward the school administrators for bringing the program to their school to undertake difficult conversations as a unified school community. The SPIRIT council found the process valuable in addressing racial conflict and recommended that other schools in the district consider conducting the program.

A few days after the program, the SPIRIT council received an invitation to present their experience and involvement in the process to Anchorage School District leadership. Participation in CRS’s School-SPIRIT program helped South Anchorage High and other schools in Anchorage build the capacity to address similar conflicts and prevent the possible spread of bias incidents on their campuses.

In October 2018, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community leaders from Seattle, Washington requested assistance from CRS to educate high school and university students about the importance of reporting bias incidents and hate crimes to law enforcement and to improve law enforcement-community relations. Community leaders reported repeated incidents of allegedly bias-motivated bullying, harassment, and petty crimes, such as theft of personal property targeting Seattle’s AAPI student communities.

CRS worked with the Organization of Chinese American - Seattle Chapter (OCA) and Pre- Conquest Indigenous Cultures & the Aftermath (PICA) to raise awareness of bias incidents and hate crimes targeting the AAPI community, improve relations between law enforcement and AAPI youth, encourage reporting, and conduct prevention workshops involving service-providing organizations and the Seattle Police Department. As a first step, OCA and PICA requested CRS’s assistance in identifying a Seattle Police Department representative to speak at a cultural event for AAPI students.

Finally, CRS trained students in facilitated dialogue skills to lead a multi-session program on bullying and harassment at a Seattle high school. The program was part of a city-wide Martin Luther King, Jr., (MLK) Day 2019 commemoration attended by thousands of people from the greater Seattle area. Students, their families, and social-service providers attended the program, filling a large classroom to standing-room capacity. The dialogues brought together students, educators, and law enforcement officers to share their personal experiences of race, color, and national origin-motivated bullying and hate crimes.

Resources for You

Toolkit: Educational Organizations (PDF)

Preventing and Responding to Bias and Hate Incidents in K-12 Education Settings (PDF)

Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes Forum Facilitator Guide for Community Leaders  (PDF)

Protecting Places of Worship Forum Facilitator Guide for Community Leaders  (PDF)

Dialogue on Race Program Guide (PDF)

Facilitating Meetings Around Community Conflict (PDF)

Dialogue on Race (PDF)

College Campus Safety - Working with University and College Communities (PDF)

School-Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (School-SPIRIT) (PDF)

Additional Resources and Informational Videos

Updated January 2, 2024