Every day, we have the ability and opportunity to create a more accepting world. Even small acts of inclusion can have a big impact on making others feel accepted. Click the spaces below to see the many ways you can encourage inclusivity.

Show me how to act inclusively at school

Start a conversation to create deeper connections

Just because you may appear to be different from someone on the surface doesn’t mean you can’t connect. Use the conversation starters on our Questions to Connect page to get to know someone who comes from a different background or has a different perspective than you. Invite them to have a meal, or just say hi when you see them around school. By taking the step to have a conversation and make someone feel welcome, you get to know them on an individual level and might even make a new friend. You’ll also be encouraging others to do the same.

Commit to thinking before you speak

We often use insensitive language out of habit or to be funny, not because we intend harm. But, insensitive language – which can include jokes based on stereotypes – can easily make some people feel unsafe or excluded. It is easier to break this habit when you  can commit to thinking before you speak. Don’t be afraid to remind those around you, respectfully, that “there is probably a better way to say that.” Check out some language to be mindful of in our Questions to Self-Reflect.

 

“I was allowed to just exist as who I was, which completely changed my high school experience. I was able to be more focused on my friends. I was happier.”

Read Grace's Story

Start a discussion

Download our Educator’s Guide to help you facilitate classroom or assembly discussions about bias and inclusion using the original Love Has No Labels video. The guide includes key words, discussion questions, extension activities by grade level (grades 3-12), and tips to rethink bias. By starting a discussion in the classroom, you can give your students the tools to examine their biases both inside school with their peers and outside the classroom with family members.

Consider your actions and reactions

Are there certain people you don’t feel quite as comfortable approaching, sitting next to, or talking to? For example, people with disabilities sometimes find people staring at them, or looking away and acting as if they’re invisible. People from a number of racial and religious groups also find that people avoid them on the street, lock their car doors, or clutch their belongings as they walk by. Instead of avoiding eye contact or walking across the street, engage with people as you normally do. If it’s appropriate, include the individual in the conversation and encourage others to engage in an open, inclusive manner.

Reconsider stereotypes

Stereotypes are oversimplified images or ideas about social identity groups — for example, older adults are sometimes assumed to be “bad at technology.” And while this may seem harmless, stereotypes are overwhelmingly inaccurate and can negatively impact decisions around employment, education, the justice system, housing and financial services. At school with our teachers and peers, we can take time to question whether the assumptions we are making are supported by real evidence specific to an individual, and we can work to ensure everyone is valued fairly.

Diversify classroom materials

Exposing your students to books and videos with diverse protagonists, storylines and themes can help them develop empathy and respect for people who are different from them. You can encourage them to think about what they’ve learned and how they can apply it to their everyday lives. The Anti-Defamation League’s Words that Heal curriculum is a great resource to help you learn more about how to use children’s literature to  address issues with physical, verbal and relational bullying.The Anti-Defamation League’s Books That Matter, an online bibliography of 700+ books on bias, bullying, diversity, and social justice may also be helpful.

Anticipate and rehearse

If you think you may find yourself in situations where bias is likely to arise, try rehearsing possible responses like “Do you think some people might find that language hurtful?” or “What information are you basing that on?” Having a few responses at the ready will help you react quickly and confidently when the moment arises.  By responding politely but firmly, you can lay the groundwork for a productive conversation while also making those who are experiencing bias feel welcome.

Prepare for teachable moments

If you hear biased or offensive language used in the classroom, you can interrupt whatever lesson is being taught, and start a new one on language, respect, and bias. Explain “We don’t use that kind of language, because it is hurtful and offensive. Let’s talk about language that makes people feel included.” To get started, check out this article on communicating to reduce gender bias, and these communication guidelines related to ability. By doing this, you can model the correct response to hurtful behavior — and act to ensure that the behavior doesn’t repeat itself in the future.

Respond to biased language

It’s not always easy to know how to respond when you hear or see something offensive. One approach is to ask questions like “Can you tell me what you meant by that?” or “What information are you basing that on?” By responding calmly and engaging others in discussion, you can clear up any misunderstandings and create opportunities for further conversation. If you want additional tips, check out this guide on Challenging Biased Language from our partners at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

Recognize or thank people who act inclusively

When someone makes you feel supported or included, let them know that their inclusive and supportive behavior is noticed and appreciated. This type of positive acknowledgement helps everyone to recognize the importance of their actions and encourages them to take more inclusive actions in the future.

 

Show your support

Show people who have been targeted by implicit or explicit bias that you support them. Ask what they need to feel supported, and be understanding and responsive to their needs. Always reinforce that they are never to blame when they become the subject of bias. If there was a specific incident of biased behavior, encourage students who were directly involved, or those who were witnesses, to talk to you or an adult staff member. Acting as an ally doesn’t only have to be reactive — you can establish yourself as someone to be trusted, and by consistently taking action when you see bias, you inspire others to follow your example.

Use inclusive language

Using appropriate and respectful language helps those around you feel included, and can set an example for the people you come into contact with. For instance, you might ask new acquaintances which pronouns they use for themselves or use the word “partner” instead of boyfriend/girlfriend. Check out this article on communicating to reduce gender bias, and these communication guidelines relating to ability.

Create a culture of listening

Be a role model by making sure that everyone has a voice and that all perspectives are being considered. If you see that certain students aren’t being included in a conversation, make a point of reaching out in group settings or follow up individually afterwards. Ask questions to show that you’re engaged. In leading by example, you’re reinforcing within your school that every opinion matters.

Talk about it

If someone at school makes a hurtful comment or poses an offensive question, it’s easy to shut down, put up walls, or disengage. Instead, try to show that you’re committed to strengthening your relationship, and that part of that is communicating about the things that make you uncomfortable. Say something like “Hey, I felt uncomfortable when you said ____ the other day. I’d really like to talk about it with you.”

Explain how bias makes you feel

Instead of labeling a comment as offensive, try to explain calmly how it makes you feel. You might say “I know you didn’t mean to, but that made me uncomfortable because…” or “I’m not sure what you meant when you said that.” By sharing your personal experience, you make others aware of the impact of their actions (even if it’s unintentional) and create opportunities for further discussion.

Join together

Find other students, teachers, or staff members who share your goal to create an inclusive environment. Consider forming a resource group or task force to implement and maintain policies that address inclusion and diversity issues at your school. By working together, you’ll have a greater chance of succeeding. The larger your group, the easier it will be for others to practice inclusivity.

Turn mistakes into growth opportunities

None of us are perfect, and we’re all going to make mistakes at some point. If you do, simply apologize. You can say something like “I’m really sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking and realize that my actions were hurtful. I could make some excuses, but none would make up for telling such a tasteless joke. I hope you accept my apology.” While making a mistake in front of others can be embarrassing, it can also be a perfect opportunity to model an appropriate response.

Find a support system

Sometimes as a student, you might need extra help to make your school environment more inclusive. Don’t hesitate to enlist the help of parents, teachers, coaches, or other adults you trust. Catch them after class or practice — or text/email them saying something like “I’d love to help make ___ a more inclusive place, and I could really use your help.” Having the support of adults you trust can help you influence your school’s policies and create new opportunities for inclusiveness every day.

Work together

Taking action by yourself can be intimidating. To make it easier, try enlisting the help of friends and commit to taking inclusive action together. Form a group to promote inclusion in your community or reach out to a new group of people and invite them to join you in something you’re already doing.  By working together, you can widen your sphere of influence, and invite more people to join your circle.