Responding to Racial Violence
ASCA offers a wide range of resources to assist in school counselors’ work in addressing racism and bias at school and in communities. However, in the immediate aftermath of racial violence or in preparation for difficult conversations with students, specific recommendations for examining and processing your emotions and suggestions for talking with students may be most helpful.
Preparing yourself and addressing your emotions
- Learning for Justice offers a valuable resource that includes assessing your own comfort level, engaging in self-reflection, being vulnerable and addressing your own emotions. As this “Let’s Talk” guide notes, “Many educators avoid talking about race and racism. It’s uncomfortable, may lead to conflict and calls for skills few of us possess. Often, this avoidance comes down to a fear of misspeaking, sounding racist or unintentionally doing harm.”
Talking to students
- This resource from the Coalition for Grieving Students offers a guide to talking to students who will have questions about shootings and other violent acts. Among the topics discussed are how to answer questions such as: “Could I have done anything to prevent this?” “What happened?” “Can I help?” The guide also offers suggestions for how to respond when children are upset.
- Educators sometimes feel hesitant to raise topics around police-involved deaths of Black citizens or other topics related to racism because it may be uncomfortable and because some feel they don’t have enough information or background to teach the topic well. This resource from ADL: Fighting Hate for Good offers suggestions for talking to young people, including connecting the past to the present, defining important terms, talking about structural racism and white privilege and more.
- Elementary children are very aware of racial attitudes and will have difficulty making sense of what they see around them. This “Lion’s Story” on Medium talks about how to address racial incidents among younger children. Although the piece is largely directed to parents/families, it offers valuable guidance for school counselors. “The less prepared we are to think about race and talk about race, the scarier those conversations are when they occur,” the author notes. “And children need tools for how to feel and speak about these issues.”
- The Child Mind Institute provides additional suggestions for talking with kids, including being clear, direct and factual; encouraging questions and being honest about your emotions.
Addressing racism in your school counseling program
- Some school counselors may be unsure how to address racism and bias, or they may face administrative resistance to their efforts. This ASCA Standards in Practice document provides details on how the ASCA standards address racism and bias and the work of school counselors.
- Looking at anti-Blackness or inequities brought about by systems rooted in white supremacy and racism is something all students should be doing. This Learning for Justice resource makes the case for anti-racist work.