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Pathway 2: Production oriented boarding school

This section is a real-life story of a professional experienced working with vulnerable children and youth. She has hacked and found a relevant pathway through the SELMA Toolkit. We hope this story will inspire you to do the same.

“I work at a production oriented boarding school, where the students are with us for one to two years. The students are mostly between the ages of 15 and 16. The boarding school is primarily aimed at young people, who, for various reasons, opt out of the academic course in their education. Some are dyslexic. Some have attention deficit disorders. Some have had a rough upbringing. In most cases, it is a combination of several different factors. We offer a range of workshop courses (e.g. scooter repair class). The school consists of 80% boys.

Among the teaching staff we see a need to talk about hate speech, because we experience a culture of very rough language being used by our students on a daily basis. We often see and hear condescending talk about gays, women, transsexuals, and more. Several students tell us that their off time gaming gives room for a lot of condescending remarks about certain nationalities or female gamers, among other things.

We fear that the students may have a tendency of being accomplices to as well as contributing to the tough tone. Therefore, we want to focus on hate speech during class and in everyday life. 

We wanted to do two relatively short sessions, making sure to take breaks along the way. We seldom work with regular class teaching as it quickly gets tiring for the students. We therefore chose to gather all students for a joint three-hour session followed by smaller power sessions in the shops, where relatable situations occur.

We chose not to do the main SEL activity, since the students’ relatively older age combined with their low attention span in our opinion made it more important to get to the more concrete activities right away. Instead, we used the introduction to the ‘Theme 1’ ‘What is hate speech to us?’ ‘Media Production’ activity.

This exercise quickly gets at the primary misunderstandings regarding hate speech and provides an easily comprehensible baseline understanding of the issue. Focus is on the protected characteristics. The students were divided into small groups to create raps and memes with the purpose of increasing understanding. Afterwards the students were asked to provide examples of the different characteristics through their productions.

Following this, we used the ‘Theme 4’ ‘Citizenship’ activity ‘Meaningful Memes’. The use of humour as a counter move resonated well with the student group. Several students are dyslexic and have often been victims of hateful comments online due to their limited spelling abilities. The use of memes as a way of defusing conflicts makes sense to these students.

To round off we used the ‘Theme 5’ ‘Media Analysis’ activity, ‘Cracking the case of hate’, where we used the described fictional cases to identify when statements become hate speech. We did a print out of the case files and replaced the cases with real news media stories. We looked at a case about the “hate preacher”/agitator Rasmus Paludan – a young Danish right wing advocate – posting videos in which he goes to socially disadvantaged neighbourhoods to talk condescendingly about certain groups. We also built our own case based on negative generalising statements being made about Russians in the online computer game League of Legends.

The SELMA Toolkit worked really well as an inspiration in the creation of specific tasks for our students. It has been important to supplement the activities with “local” examples to make sure our students could relate to it. While often, we need to  keep our activities short, because of the limited attention span our pupils can have, this time it was more a matter of not losing our focus, because the activities generated a whole range of additional questions and discussions.”