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Issue/Question:
One of the girls in my kindergarten class is constantly taunting the one African American child in our class. She calls him "dirty" and has even pushed him down. His parents are furious. When I talk to her parents they say that they don't think "colored" should be allowed in the school. What should I do?

Suggested Response:

It is understandable that the boy's parents are furious; all parents want their children to be safe and have an opportunity to grow and learn in a healthy environment. It's up to you and the school administration to keep this child safe from both physical and emotional harm. Let both him and his parents know everything that is being done to remedy this situation.

While kindergarten children have more trouble controlling their impulses than older children, it is important for your students to know in no uncertain terms that pushing and calling someone 'dirty" is unacceptable behavior. You will also have to talk with the girl's parents, who should be told by you and by your school principal that, while they are entitled to their own opinions, in your school all students and teachers must be safe from physical harm and treated with respect. Let them know that you will not tolerate racist language or physical violence. You might also let them know that, if their daughter were older she could be subject to criminal prosecution for assault.

Situations like this reinforce the need for children from diverse cultural backgrounds to have opportunities to work together collaboratively and to learn more about one another. While it is never a guarantee that diversity awareness and anti-bias education will prevent children from internalizing the stereotypes and prejudices that they are exposed to from family members, peers, the community, and the media, it does at least provide them with alternative ways of thinking about people who are different from themselves.
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