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Delaware issues hate speech guidelines to schools following election

Delaware Public Media


Shortly after Donald Trump was elected president this month, there was an increase in reports of hate speech in schools across America, which has prompted Delaware’s Attorney General to issue guidelines to help schools determine when speech becomes threatening and intimidating.

Crowds chanting “Build that Wall” at a Trump campaign rally is protected free speech.


But when 12-year-olds do it in a middle school cafeteria, as they did in Michigan last week, it’s a different story.


“Student speech isn’t as protected as an adult's speech in a public place as free speech," said Robin Burstein, from the regional chapter of the Anti-Defamation League.


She said Delaware’s hate speech guidelines for schools make it clear when some rabble-rousing students cross the line.


“It becomes a hate incident because someone is targeted or a group is targeted because of who they are or who they are perceived to be,” she said. 


Chanting to build a wall with Mexico targets immigrants and students of Hispanic heritage, according to the guidelines. And that’s why it crosses the line into hate speech.


You also cross this line if you put another student in fear of his emotional or physical well-being, According to Delaware’s guidelines. Or if you create a hostile and threatening environment with your speech. 


And these rules apply to cyber bullying off-campus, outside of school hours as well.


The good news, Burstein said, is that schools can use these incidents as teachable moments.


“This is an opportunity to discuss with the entire student body why the behavior was wrong or do some anti-bias education,” she said.