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Educators Urged to Discuss Terrorism, Hate Crimes With Students


After the terror attacks of Sept. 11, a stranger stopped by his table in a coffee shop to say he should leave the country, Nadim Karim recalled.

Karim, a criminologist and forensic psychologist speaking to nearly 200 Los Angeles County educators Wednesday, said he passed it off with some humor.

"Well, since I was born in Africa . . . grew up in Canada, which was too cold, was educated in Europe, and have lived here only a short time, it's not at all obvious where I should go," Karim said he replied.

At the daylong symposium on hate and terrorism for those who work in the schools, financed with a grant from the Bank of America Foundation and held at the Museum of Tolerance in West Los Angeles, there were no easy answers.

Los Angeles Times Friday November 30, 2001 Home Edition Part A Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 2 inches; 58 words Type of Material: Correction
Hate crime statistics--A story in the California section Thursday about a workshop for educators on terrorism and hate crimes mischaracterized figures collected by the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission. The numbers--showing an increase in hate crimes from 13 last year to at least 120 since Sept. 11--reflected only incidents in which people apparently of Middle Eastern descent were targets.

The subject at hand was how to discuss with students the terrorist attacks and the issues that followed.

Several experts agreed that it helps students to establish a routine, to set clear policies and procedures to handle possible emergencies. And it helps to give out truthful information.

Chanoch Yeres, director of Psychological Services for the Regional Council of Jerusalem, participating through a video hookup, said there are "waves" emanating from each terrorist attack that affect young people.

Some know victims. Some may be affected by aftershocks such as copycat attacks.

It helps, Yeres said, to talk things over, "to try and find the coping mechanisms of each child . . . and by establishing routines for handling things."

But it's never simple, and it's not always "a matter of the good guys and the bad guys," said Shelly Prillerman Harrell, a professor at Pepperdine University.

For example, she said, many minority students "felt vulnerable and hated" long before Sept. 11, and there is a "diversity of reactions" to what happened that can easily be underestimated.

People of color, she suggested, may have complex feelings about the fact that "the pictures of the heroes of Sept. 11 . . . show that very few are nonwhite."

One teacher asked how to explain to students an inconsistency they may see when their parents say fighting isn't good and yet the country is engaged in war.

Harrell said sometimes matters must necessarily be confused. "How can we preach peace and still have fighting? What can we do to change that? There simply is no easy answer," she said.

Karim too pointed out that the trouble did not begin with Sept. 11. He listed the school shootings at Columbine High School; Jonesboro, Ark.; Springfield, Ore., and others.

He said one important element is to be alert to such disturbing factors as bullying, parental neglect and pack behavior.

One area of some apparent disagreement among Yeres, Karim and Harrell was how to explain "the evils of Sept. 11." Yeres said he never tries to explain to Israelis why attacks are committed against them. Karim and Harrell said they believed all of this had to be discussed, and student ideas listened to.

Among others at the session were county officials in charge of hate crime reports.

Robin Toma, of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, said there has been "a tremendous increase in hate crimes and incidents in Los Angeles County since Sept. 11."

There were 13 such crimes or incidents in all of last year, and there have been 120 to 150 since Sept. 11, he said.

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