Friday, February 8, 2019

Tough Topic: How to Teach Your Students to Stand Up to Hate Speech

Hate speech is spoken or written words that are used to insult or belittle a person or group of people based on an element of their identity. Hate speech can targeted based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or other identifying factors.
Hate speech is ugly and can be hard to talk about with children and adolescents. It can also be hard for children to relate to hate speech. While many have seen it online or in other media, they likely have not been on the receiving end. While this is a good thing – because we don't want our children to have to experience this hardship – it can make it difficult to convince children that they should act to prevent hate speech. Often our students – especially those in middle or high school – find it easier to scroll past it on their screens or walk by it when overhearing it in the hallway. After all, stepping in could result in them being targeted by the person saying the hateful things as well.

At Safer Internet Day earlier this week, ConnectSafely put together a panel of two women who bravely shared their stories of the impact of hate speech and how they stood against it. We call them upstanders. You can use these stories to engage your students in a discussion about hate speech. Here is a lesson with conversation starters and learning goals.

Click here to see the full lesson.

Heller and Khan's stories are a key part of making hate speech real in this lesson. Their stories can help inspire all of us to be upstanders as well. Click PLAY on the video below to watch the 30 minute interview of Brittan Heller and Hani Khan.

When you are finished, as the lesson suggests, challenge your students to use online programs such as Adobe Spark, Microsoft Sway, or Google Sites or Slides to create their own digital messaging about how to stand up to hate speech and why it is worthwhile to do so. Some great examples from students who have tried a similar activity at schools where I've visited are below.

When they connect with the personal stories of others, you will find your students inspired to take action and flood the internet with positivity in an effort to counteract hate speech. What will your students come up with?

Share their creations with us at and We might share them on our Twitter feed and feature their great work!