CHCCS Protocol for Responding to Racial Slurs and Hate Speech in Schools

  • The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools District is dedicated to inspiring educators, students, and parents/caregivers to challenge bias in themselves, others, and society to create a more affirming and inclusive school community.


    Love is the organizing principle at the center of responding to racial slurs and hate speech. Love of self and community ensures a safe learning environment where respect and equity allow all students to thrive. It also empowers the school community to stand against all forms of racism, bias, and bullying and sends a unified message that all students have a place where they belong.



    Hate speech can harm individuals, communities, and societies. The research focused on the impact of racial, ethnic, ability, religious, gendered, and LGBTQ+ hate speech finds that the targets of hate speech can experience negative emotional, mental, and physical consequences. These can include low self-worth, anxiety, fear for their lives, and even self-harm or suicide.


    Hate speech is more than just harsh words. It can be any form of expression intended to vilify, humiliate, or incite hatred against a group or class of people. It can occur offline or online, or both. It can be communicated using words, symbols, gestures, images, memes, emojis, and video.


    Using derogatory words, even if the word itself is not a racial or ethnic slur, can be hateful speech. Examples include using words like “animals” or “invaders” to describe immigrants; comparing people to “trash” or “garbage”; or alluding to specific groups of ethnic minorities as “cockroaches” or “diseases.”


    Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools uses frameworks developed by the ADL and Learning for Justice to help prevent racial slurs and hate speech in school. More specifically, these frameworks center on the actions listed below.

    • Supporting student leadership in building a school movement that doesn’t allow space for racial slurs and hate speech

    • Unifying the school community around shared values and beliefs

    • Assessing the school culture and climate

    • Inspiring students and staff to become influential allies in the fight against hate speech


    Eliminating racial slurs and hate speech in schools requires all school community members to have a voice and skills in creating an affirming and inclusive school community. Students, educators, and families/caregivers can achieve this goal through the actions listed in the Learning for Justice Speak Up Guide


    • Interrupting: speaking up against every biased remark.

    • Questioning: asking simple questions in response to hateful remarks to determine why the speaker made the offensive comment and how best to address the situation.

    • Educating: explaining why a term or phrase is offensive and encouraging the person to choose a different expression.

    • Echoing: thanking someone if they speak up against hate. One person’s voice is a powerful start.


    I. Set Goals for the Community Code of Character Conduct and Support 

    • Clearly define rules and expectations for responsible conduct on school property and at school functions for which all adults are committed to promoting, supporting, modeling, and enforcing for every student at all grade levels.

    • Identify and ensure that all adult school stakeholders implement fair, clear, equitable, and timely consequences.

    • Identify and implement restorative and accountable interventions that support every student to improve behavior and academic performance by strengthening their self-management and social and emotional competencies.

    • Increase capacity and accountability of teachers, administrators and student support specialists to promote positive behaviors; prevent inappropriate and unacceptable behaviors; and intervene early and effectively when students are struggling with academic, attendance, behavioral, mental health, or family challenges, particularly students who are experiencing multiple barriers to school success.

    • Strive to ensure that no student is subject to harassment, bullying, and/or discrimination based on a person’s actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ethnic group, language, religion, religious practice, socio-economic status, disability, weight, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and expression, or other reasons, by school employees or students on school property, on a school bus, or at a school function. 


    II. Provide Ongoing Professional Development for Staff

    All staff must have access to professional development opportunities that centers on creating inclusive environments. School leaders should identify learning experiences around the following topics:

    1. Developing Equity-Centered Classrooms 

    Emphasizing culturally responsive and developmentally informed practices that affirm students’ multiple identities, cultural experiences, and the range of their developmental needs and interests.

    1. Scanning the School Environment for Common Bias 

    Gender biases, Biases related to students’ disabilities and developmental delays, Learning biases, Racial biases, Cultural biases related to ethnicity, religion, class, locale/neighborhood, language, etc. Negativity biases, Aggression / Conflict aversion biases

    1. Acknowledging and Countering Bias in the Classroom 

    Building awareness of common biases, increasing our capacity to observe and reflect on what we personally experience to reduce biased behaviors that negatively impact students, and actively counter biases through the use of universal strategies that welcome, value, and support every student.


    1. Providing Learning Experiences and Support to Students


    Among the greatest challenges for any school-wide effort is leading all stakeholders toward a collective understanding. The Equity & Engagement, School Support and Wellness, and School Leadership Divisions look forward to partnering with school communities to lead the work against racial slurs and hate speech in schools – as a positive change in school cultures and climates is a continual process rather than a final destination.



    I. Review Board Policy 1710/4020/7230

    Board policy lists specific steps for reporting discrimination and harassment and issuing complaints of discrimination and harassment. 

    • Any person who believes they have been discriminated against or harassed in violation of this policy by any student, employee, or other person under the supervision and control of the school system should inform a school official designated below. Reports can also be made anonymously through the anonymous tip line

      • The principal or assistant principal 

      • The 504 coordinator or the ADA coordinator 

    • Any employee who witnesses or who has reliable information or reason to believe that a student or individual has been discriminated against or harassed in violation of this policy must report the offense immediately to the employees listed above. 

    • If the complaint alleges that the perpetrator is an employee, the school receiving the complaint shall notify the senior human resources official without delay. 

    • Alleged discrimination or harassment should be reported as soon as possible but no later than 30 days after disclosure or discovery of the facts giving rise to the complaint. 


    II. Contact Central Office Support

    Each school is assigned a central office-based equity specialist. Schools may contact specialists about fostering inclusive communities or assistance responding to racial slurs and hate speech.


    III.  Understand Violations in the Community Code of Character Conduct and Support Related to 


    • Hate Speech or Acts: This includes the display of symbols on flags, clothing, literature, online, or in other areas that school officials conclude pose a risk to school safety, such as the swastika, the confederate battle flag, and other symbols affiliated with violent protest and violence against minority groups, women, LGBTQ+ individuals, individuals with disabilities, and other protected groups. Any spoken, written, electronic communication, signage, physical gestures, words/ symbols on apparel or other items that carry no meaning in the incident other than the incitement and expression of hatred against a group of persons, particularly an oppressed or marginalized group, defined in terms of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation. (Page 32) Level 4,5


    • Hate crime:  An incident that becomes a crime when hate speech or acts involve a threat or act of violence directed at a person because of their real or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. (Page 32) Level 5


    • Understand Administrative Responses to Hate Speech, Bullying, and Bias-Related Incidents (Pages 14-15)