The Ebola outbreak in West Africa and irrational reactions to it in the U.S. are creating challenges in some schools. In some cases, students from Africa - or students who are thought to be from Africa - are being targeted for abuse by uninformed classmates who fear they may spread the virus.
This situation requires quick, intelligent action by adults. To correct student misinformation about the disease, please see our classroom lesson on Ebola. Below are some steps aimed at restoring calm and safety when students are being targeted because of Ebola.
1. Adults must make a clear, strong statement that students must stop their mistreatment of targeted classmates immediately. See these guidelines for stopping oppressive behavior.
2. Adults must provide protection and emotional support for the targeted student or students. The guidance counselor or other professional should provide one-on-one support for targeted students.
3. All school staff members should be given accurate information about the virus.
4. Adults should have a chance to meet and share their information about what has happened, as well as their feelings and concerns about Ebola and students’ reactions to it. One format for doing this is the Listening Circle.
5. Adults should then develop a clear plan for addressing the situation. In addition to the other steps described here, this might include convening a group of student leaders to discuss the targeting of students and how to stop it. Enlist students’ help in educating their fellow students and advocating for respect.
6. Teachers should discuss Ebola information and misinformation with their students.
- Please see our classroom lesson about Ebola, which explores how the disease is spread, what the government is doing to prevent its spread in the United States, as well as the impact of the disease on people in West Africa, the brave health care professionals who are trying to help, and related issues.
- See these guidelines for addressing difficult issues in the classroom.
- See these guidelines for stopping oppressive behavior.