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Teaching Tolerance and Respect in Schools

April 07, 2002

Re "Tolerance Is Stressed, Educators Insist," March 13:

Although Huntington Beach Mayor Debbie Cook insists schools need to do a better job of teaching respect for diversity, it's clear that it is the responsibility of parents to teach respect for diversity, and the responsibility of the schools and churches to support parents. In fact, schools are required to suspend students who commit hate crimes as defined by the California State Education Code.

Cook states, "We don't teach [tolerance]." As part of the Safe Schools Task Force in Huntington Beach, police officers, parents and educators developed a matrix of all the programs offered in the schools that relate to tolerance education, violence prevention and drug abuse. Principals provided information to the city's Human Relations Task Force regarding tolerance education programs in city schools. Perhaps Cook, who voted to eliminate funding for DARE, was unaware that one component of DARE is tolerance education.

Ocean View School District middle schools have implemented a tolerance education program in collaboration with the Orange County Human Relations Council.

The hate crime committed by the three youths was horrific. However, let's place blame where it belongs, with those who committed the crime.

Elizabeth Williams

Huntington Beach

In connection with the hate-related attack of an Asian American store manager by three teenagers, I commented that the schools could do more to build tolerance. I also said that the churches and synagogues could do more to teach respect, and that civic associations could do more to teach understanding toward those who are different. I concluded by saying that we needed to look at all of the institutions for ways we could do more to build understanding between our diverse residents, because even one hate crime is too many.

Unfortunately, part of my comments were paired with a criticism of the Ocean View schools that I totally disagree with. I never discussed the Ocean View School District and didn't at the time know whether any of the teenagers charged were from that district. I did indicate that we would be happy to work with any school affected by this incident to build better relations among diverse students.

Our organization has worked in the Ocean View, Huntington Beach City and Huntington Beach Union High School districts for many years to build understanding through BRIDGES, our School Interethnic Relations Program. These school districts have made substantive efforts to build understanding among their increasingly diverse students.

I meant only to challenge all in our society to do more until we are truly a community where all people are welcomed and included.

Rusty Kennedy

Executive director

Orange County

Human Relations Commission

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