Educating our Young to avoid Hate Crimes in the Future

When hate crimes occur they are very⅕ serious, cause significant pain and suffering but I’m worried that, from my experience in the classroom, that this significance is being eroded. I suspect that we will all have different takes on what we think hate crimes are and the seriousness with which they should be taken. How we react to such vicious and demeaning actions will vary depending on our cultural norms and experiences. However, I hope everyone will agree that such violence and hatred should not be condoned nor encouraged.

About a week ago a dear blogger friend, Brian, posted about his own experiences of hate crime in the workplace, and his blog got me thinking about some of my own experiences and the way the youth seem to be thinking about equality, diversity and inclusiveness as well as specifically their attitudes towards hate crimes.

My own direct experiences

I personally haven’t witnessed hate crimes in the situations I’m about to recall, but hopefully I will be able to demonstrate the need for some common sense and a little bit of caution when allegations are made of hate crime taking place. I’m not in any way saying don’t over-react, but get the facts straight first – be sure of the facts so you don’t end up taking actions that could inflame situations and make matters worse. We do need to take allegations/revelations of hate crime seriously and act appropriately when they occur.

A few years ago there was a situation where an asian student was part of an equalities working group. The group were discussing harassment and the group lead was outlining some examples of different types of harassment and potential hate crimes. Apparently said student revealled that some of the cited behaviours were being used by his classmates. The next thing I know, the Hate Crime unit from the police were being brought in to talk to the class.

its definitely good to educate our youth of the benefits of equality, diversity and inclusion, and to promote and model appropriate behaviours. However, in this instance, the situation was handled too heavy-handed, causing barriers to go up and made trying to have open conversations where the students wouldn’t feel threatened more difficult.

Afterwards, when I was able to discuss events with the students we were able to explore what had happened and the students, who had been friednds beforehand, were able to talk to each other and ask if any comments etc had been offensive or caused harm.

On speaking 1-1 with the relevant student, he advised that he contributed to the exchanges; he gave as good as he got and felt confident enough to challenge his friends if and when they crossed any line. He added that he was making many of the comments too. He told me that at no time did he feel bullied or harassed, except by the Equality team lead pushing the label of hate crime victim onto him.

I don’t want to take away from the seriousness of racist comments, harassment or hate crimes, but while the actions of one over-enthusiastic person and police officers keen to promote their new Hate Crimes Unit did raise awareness of bullying, harassment and hate crimes i think the whole situation could have been handled more professionally and more sensitively rather than traumatosing and stigmatising people. This leads me on to my second point: we need to think about how we educate our youth.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Training for our young

The need to raise awareness of discrimination, bullying, and harassment amongst our young people has been driven home again recently, with a class of 16 year olds who are too comfortable with labelling everything as a hate crime – someone takes a pen/pencil from them; someone refuses to share something with their classmates, they call it hate crime. Its as if, like a toddler learning new words, they want to use ‘hate crime’ constantly. Everything that happens to them is a hate crime. This change really worries me.

We need to educate our young so they understand the seriousness of the words they’re using. I’m also worried that such attitudes/mentality normalises the term and it loses impact. Harassment and hate crimes are never acceptable but for our young, their cries of harassment orhate crimes seem commonplace. Like the boy who cried wolf too often.

I am pleased to say that the students are no longer labelling all irritations as hate crimes, so a tiny success for me, but I feel this is going to be an ongoing struggle to educate the young.

I don’t know where this blasé attitude or use of the term has come from, but for me to hear it used in such a relaxed manner is quite alarming.

I do cover Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in my teaching, but it’s surprising how few understand some of the basic terminology, although do appear to be quite capable of using it correctly in context. I believe this makes my role as an educator in equalities ever more important, but what about students where this isn’t embedded in their course content, or those not engaging in further study. We need to develop young people coming into our workplaces and being valuable contributors coming into society who have an understanding of the dynamics within society and the need for inclusion.

As a final thought, I believe this needs to be dealt with earlier, when they are still in school.

If we want to live in a world free from prejudice, discrimination, hate crime and instead be inclusive, we need to ensure our young get the message early so they can drive the changes as they come into society as adults thinking for themselves.

I know some people may find what I’ve said contentious, so I’d love to hear everyone’s opinions in the comments.


  1. Yes, it’s such a contentious topic, full of landmines. I’m not sure I have much to add, just that when I think about race relations, I come back often to guidance my mother gave me as a kid. She talked often of loving others; being generous and kind, and, most importantly, treating others the way I would want to be treated. It get’s even tougher with students. Where does the truth, feelings, and tough situations fall, it can be very challenging. Good luck to you, that has to be tough. And thank you so much for the shoutout. I greatly appreciate that!

  2. If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard people use the words “hate crime” and “racism” regarding anything they personally didn’t like, I’d be able to treat myself and ten of my closest peeps to a super expensive dinner, with tip and change left over. The part that i want to point out is that I’ve never heard anyone under 25 use them incorrectly. The youths I have dealt with have used it, saying that they have witnessed hate crimes and that they reported them. When questioned, the crimes they reported were absolutely hate crimes, and also, just plain crimes. To watch someone be physically attacked because of their race or ethnicity is the definition of hate crime, and the fact that they were physically assaulted definitely makes it just a crime.

    Adults, however, like to say how there’s no such thing as a hate crime, and that everyone that uses the term is just trying to convince others that someone not liking them is due to some thing like race or ethnicity, just not their own personality. It can’t be the victims’ fault, it MUST be the fault of the aggressor not liking their very skin.

    Oddly, the adults who say that kind of bull are the same ones who will turn around and scream that a hate crime just happened because someone else told them no. Hate crimes aren’t real and don’t happen against other people, just when something happens to them.

    I don’t have to wear a mask at the height of Covid, you can’t make me, I have rights. Let me talk to your manager! Not letting me be in here maskless and coughing at the height of a pandemic with three dogs is racism, bigotry, misogyny, and a hate crime! No it’s not. Get a dictionary. You’re a white man talking to another white man, and you still need to go. Bye.

    These are the very people teaching our children at home. I feel bad for educators who get to unravel that ball of yarn at school. But from what I see, schools are doing a pretty good job of it, overall. At least around my area. We had to get something right, and I’m glad we chose that.

    • Thanks for taking the time to write out such a detailed response. And I agree, there are a lot of people who will deny hate crime exists or happens. I’m not suggesting that at all. It does occur and, as you say, because people try to deny it, makes it more difficult. Hate Crime also goes beyond just incidences of racial attacks, at least in the UK.

      I’m glad the young people around you are learning what they’re being taught. I dont think its happening everywhere.

      • Oh, I agree it is not a common thing that kids are learning the messaging. I also recognize that you were not suggesting anything other than kids use it indiscriminately. I was just saying the kids around you sound like the adults around me. Hate crimes extend in all directions, the most clear-cut and easy to understand are the ones based on something clear cut, and race is a very easy one to see. Someone going into a synagogue and shooting everyone inside, or going to an Asian massage parlor to kill everyone, a group of people attacking a Muslim woman with her children in a mall post 9/11; these are the ones that are the most difficult to ignore the hate crime aspect of it. And yet, there are adults around me that deny such a thing exists. “It’s just a crime. Hate crimes don’t exist, they’re not a thing other than to make an offense worse than what it already is. It’s stupid and fake just to create a false narrative and elevate the victim to someone that truly couldn’t help the attack, merely someone of unfortunate circumstance due to something they are born with.” Then, a few days later, their chai latte with extra non-fat, non-carb extra sweet isn’t available when they get to the counter. They scream it’s a hate crime, among many other silly and untrue things. I experienced this in person once. A school friend and I were discussing hate crimes and she said something similar during that conversation. Then someone borrowed one of her pens and rudely returned it having emptied it of ink and didn’t tell her. It was rude, not a hate crime, but that’s what she was saying. I gently reminded her that hate crimes don’t exist other than to create a false narrative to make things sound worse than they are. She refused to speak to me again and I was fine with that.

        Honestly, your post simply reminded me of how much work remains. If “hate crime” can be defined (quite broadly) by a six-year old, there is no reason why children that are slightly over misuse the term, and certainly no reason on earth why adults should. But the older kids misusing it is not abnormal, it happened when bipolar disorder was taken into mainstream too. Anyone that wasn’t liked was immediately unlikable because they were bipolar. Anyone who showed any emotion was immediately bipolar. Anyone who didn’t show emotion was bipolar. It’s part of how terminology makes it’s way into mainstream consciousness. Catching them and educating them then is important and worthwhile as they are receptive to being corrected about it. There’s always a singular stubborn hold-out, but I’ve seen the other kids pop them back into place like a dislocated shoulder or a (non-aggressive) game of whack-a-mole.

        I think the key to it is to teach the kids when they are really young, like the school system around here does. Start teaching it when they are six-ish years old. Then, when they are older and abusing the term, so what you did and teach it as what it is: serious, real, and not to be used stupidly. What you get is older teens and adults that get it. But the education around it needs to be solid. If you get a teacher that doesn’t truly understand it, neither will the kids. The message will be confused. I know that around here, classes taught about sensitive things like gender identity, hate crimes, sexuality, etc., must be taught by teachers who have taken special courses to teach it. Any teacher can intervene and explain why what is being done is not ok, but only the teachers with the special classes can teach a classroom full of students in detail. That way, all questions will be answered and hopefully answered clearly and correctly. All guidance counselors must take the course as well. The remainder of the school takes abbreviated versions of these lessons, such as during an in-service day. Like basic training to be like “this is sexual harassment in the workplace” or “how to report a coworker anonymously.” The other classes are too expensive and expansive to give to every teacher, especially if they aren’t going to teach a class about it. But three whole days of training about one thing is a lot, no one wants to do that unless they have to. But if you DO want to do it, the school will not say no. From what my teacher friends say, outside of those assigned it, maybe 5 or 6 teachers a year ask for the training on it. In a school that has 50 or 60 teachers, if you’re paying for the assigned teachers to get those classes and then not denying those who ask, you’re only paying for 15 people, all of which WANT to learn it in depth. All teachers are learning it, but only the ones who are willing to give up a week in the summer for it are the ones you’re paying for. It makes good fiscal sense on a business level. And it seems to benefit the youth around here. In all honesty, it’s one of the few things we do that makes any sense at all.

        Also, when I say “around here,” I literally mean around here. I am not speaking for my entire country. I am not even speaking for other areas of my own state. I am specifically referring to the schools in MY county and the county next door to us. If you go a mere 15 miles away, that level of education may not be the norm. From what I see in my three jobs, the education around here is working. My third job, the one where I work with children, is where I see the benefits the most. I have been so far limited to those two counties (which I prefer anyway as these counties are HUUUUGE and it could take over an hour to get from one side to the next).

        So, there’s hope. Just gotta keep truckin’ and good luck!

      • Thanks Marla. It’s really interesting to hear of your experiences. I agree about education and training. The teachers (or lecturers in my case) need to be trained too. I suspect that’s why they thought bringing in the police with the class a few years ago was appropriate, not stopping to think that I teach HRM and have a specific interest in equality and diversity

  3. Hate crime is a very serious issue and needs to be taken up accordingly. It cannot be underplayed or overplayed at one’s own whims. People need to be sensitized about hate crime. However, as you have rightly said, it cannot be condoned or encouraged.

  4. Wow – an important topic and great story about how it can go wrong. I love how you slowed things down to unpack what happened in that situation with the student. Very wise leadership and guidance!

  5. Informative and very true blog Brenda. I agree that the young kids especially those who are 18 years and under need training and be able to recruit ways to avoid the hate crimes in the future. I have not experienced this even during my school days but I can tell you that there are kids who are going through a lot thus they need adequate support, training, learning initiatives that they can use and apply both on campus and outside👏🙌🙌

  6. Nothing to add to about your thoughts other than to say that I’m glad you wrote them here. If people don’t start talking about what hate is and isn’t this problem is never going to be solved. Instead we drift along rudderless at the exact moment we need to be rowing together.

    • Thank you, Ally. I think sometimes people are so scared to say anything or ask questions. But if we don’t, we can’t learn

Leave a Reply