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Project Aims To Teach Tolerance In School

 MONTGOMERY, AL -- Rural American schools are facing many of the same problems found in urban schools, but often with fewer resources and a public that mistakenly believes poverty, school closings and high dropout rates aren't rural school problems, according to the Fall 2010 issue of Teaching Tolerance magazine, released today.

A series of articles examines the challenges facing rural schools and the educators who are making a difference. It also looks at how technology is providing new educational opportunities in these schools while giving rise to a host of new problems. A collection of informative maps and charts provides a statistical snapshot of the state of rural education in America.

Teaching Tolerance is being distributed free of charge by the Southern Poverty Law Center to more than 400,000 educators nationwide. It can be read at www.teachingtolerance.org.

"Ignorance about rural schools is widespread," said SPLC Teaching Tolerance Director Maureen Costello. "No one – not even the federal government – has a single definition for what constitutes 'rural.' But these schools are facing many of the same challenges long associated with urban schools – student poverty, school closings and dropout."

For example, in the 800 poorest rural school districts, the poverty rate mirrors the rate in major urban districts such as Chicagoand Los Angeles. These 800 districts serve more than 900,000 students. In South Carolina's poorest districts, dropout rates hover around 50 percent. And in rural districts where funding is scarce, communities are discovering their schools are being closed as part of consolidation efforts designed to stretch shrinking budgets.

Teaching Tolerance also examines how gay and lesbian students often face bullying and other challenges they may not encounter in urban districts.

Bullying is the subject of Teaching Tolerance's newest film and educational kit, which is previewed in the magazine. Bullied: A Student, a School and a Case that Made History tells the story of a student who stood up to his anti-gay tormentors and filed a federal lawsuit that led to a landmark court decision finding that school officials could be held accountable for not stopping the harassment of gay students.  

And a new form of bullying – cyberbullying – is tackled in an article that looks at how some students are using technology to harass, humiliate and threaten classmates. The article examines the thorny issues surrounding this phenomenon and the best ways for educators to respond.

The magazine also offers ideas and tips for the ninth annual National Mix It Up at Lunch Day on Nov. 9. Thousands of schools participate in the event, sponsored by Teaching Tolerance, that seeks to break down the barriers between students and improve intergroup relations so there are fewer misunderstandings that can lead to conflicts, bullying and harassment. 

Teaching Tolerance magazine, published twice a year by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is the nation's leading journal serving educators on diversity issues. In June, the magazine was named the 2009 Periodical of the Year by the Association of Educational Publishers, the fourth time it has won the honor. Teaching Tolerance films have garnered four Academy Award nominations and won two Oscars.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Ala., is a nonprofit civil rights organization that combats bigotry and discrimination through litigation, education and advocacy. 


STORY TAGS: GENERAL , BLACKS , AFRICAN AMERICAN , LATINO , HISPANIC , MINORITIES , CIVIL RIGHTS , DISCRIMINATION , RACISM , DIVERSITY , RACIAL EQUALITY , BIAS , EQUALITY



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