TAKING THE HUMAN RIGHTS
TEMPERATURE OF YOUR SCHOOL
Shiman and Kristi Rudelius-Palmer welcome you to translate and/or
adapt the activity
to your specific communities. We have adapted this activity
for use in other settings, including the workplace, communities
of faith, and neighborhoods. I would like to post this activity
in different languages and be able to share ways this activity
is being used throughout the world.
the Human Rights Resource Center your new translations or adaptations
with your comments on how effective this tool was as a part of your
training or educational program.
Thanks in advance for your input!
Participants evaluate their school's human rights
climate using criteria derived from the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights. The subsequent discussion builds towards identifying areas of
particular concern and developing an action plan to begin addressing
· To assess human rights conditions within the school community
· To reflect critically on forces at work within the school that affect
the human rights climate
· To develop an action plan to improve the human rights situation within
Grade Level: 7-12; administrators, parent and teachers
Time: 1-2 hours (survey only)
Materials: TAKING THE HUMAN RIGHTS TEMPERATURE QUESTIONAIRE
(attached); copies of the UDHR (reference only)
1. Have participants evaluate their school's human rights
climate, i.e. take its "temperature," by completing the survey
questionnaire below. It might be appropriate to have participants conduct
research into school conditions, using the survey items below, prior
to completing the instrument or prior to developing an action plan.
2. Prepare for class discussion by creating a 1-4 rating
scale on a chalkboard or newsprint. Then have participants call out responses
to each item.
IMPORTANT: Participants might not wish to make their own responses public.
Consider collecting the questionnaires and redistributing them so that
participant anonymity can be assured.
3. Discuss the findings from the survey, drawing on the
following questions to move from analysis and evaluation to the development
of an action plan.
a. In which areas does your school appear to be adhering to or promoting
human rights principles?
b. In which areas do there seem to be human rights problems? Which of
these are of particular concern to you? Elaborate on the areas of concern,
providing examples and identifying patterns in human rights violations.
c. How do you explain the existence of such problematic conditions?
* Do they have race/ethnicity, class, gender, disability, age, or sexual
* Are the issues related to participation in decision-making(who is included
and who isn't?)?
* Who benefits and who loses/suffers as a result of the existing human
* Other explanations to consider?
d. Have you or any of your fellow community contributed in any way to
the construction and perpetuation of the existing climate? (e.g. by acting
in certain ways. by not acting in certain ways---ignoring abuses or not
e. Were those completing the questionnaire representative of the
population of the school? Would you expect different results from a different
group of people? In what ways might another group's responses differ
and why? Should these differences be of any concern to you and to the
school community? When determining which human rights concerns
need to be addressed and how to address them, how can you be certain
to take into account the perspectives and
experiences of different people?
f. What needs to be done to improve the human rights climate in your
school? What action(s) can you and your group take to create a more humane
and just environment where human rights values are promoted and human
rights behaviors practiced?
4. Review questionnaire item #25, stressing the importance
of assuming responsibility and acting. Then, as a group brainstorm possible
actions the group might take to improve the human rights situation? Decide
on a short list of options for action. Thoroughly debate and discuss
the short list before any decision regarding actions to be taken.
5. Based on the group discussion, choose items for action,
and develop an action plan, identifying goals, strategies, and responsibilities.
TAKING THE HUMAN RIGHTS TEMPERATURE OF
The questions below are adapted from the United Nations
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). (The relevant UDHR articles
are included parenthetically in each statement.) Some of these issues
correlate more directly to the UDHR than others. All of these questions
are related to the fundamental human right to education found in Article
26 of the Universal Declaration. It asserts:
Everyone has the right to education... Education shall be directed to
the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening
of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
When discrimination is mentioned in the questionnaire below, it refers
to a wide range of conditions: race, ethnicity/culture, sex, physical/intellectual
capacities, friendship associations, age, culture, disability, social
class/financial status, physical appearance, sexual orientation, life
style choices, nationality, and living space. This is a much more expansive
list than that found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but
is more helpful in assessing the human rights temperature in your school
The results should provide a general sense of the school's climate in
light of principles found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Obviously more questions are needed and follow-up questioning during
the discussion will enrich the assessment. These questions can help to
identify specific areas of concern that need to be addressed.
TAKING THE HUMAN RIGHTS TEMPERATURE OF YOUR SCHOOL: THE QUESTIONNAIRE
Directions: Take the human rights temperature of your school. Read each
statement and assess how accurately it describes your school community
in the blank next to it. (Keep in mind all members of your school: students,
teachers, administators, staff. ) At the end, total up your score to
determine your overall assessment score for your school.
1 - no/never
2 - rarely
3 - often
4 - yes/always
____ 1. My school is a place where students are safe and secure. (Art.
3 & 5)
____ 2. All students receive equal information and encouragement about
academic and career opportunities. (Art. 2)
____ 3. Members of the school
community are not discriminated against because of their life style
choices, such as manner of dress, associating with certain people,
and non-school activities. (Art. 2 & 16)
____ 4. My school provides
equal access, resources, activities, and scheduling accommodations
for all individuals. (Art. 2 & 7)
____ 5. Members of my school
community will oppose discriminatory or demeaning actions, materials,
or slurs in the school. (Art. 2, 3, 7, 28, & 29)
____ 6. When someone demeans
or violates the rights of another person, the violator is helped to
learn how to change his/her behavior. (Art. 26)
____ 7. Members of
my school community care about my full human as well as academic development
and try to help me when I am in need. (Art. 3, 22, 26 & 29)
____ 8. When conflicts arise,
we try to resolve them through non- violent and collaborative ways.
(Art. 3, 28)
____ 9. Institutional
policies and procedures are implemented when complaints of harassment
or discrimination are submitted. (Art. 3 & 7)
____ 10. In matters related
to discipline (including suspension and expulsion), all persons are
assured of fair, impartial treatment in the determination of guilt
and assignment of punishment. (Art. 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10)
____ 11. No one in
our school is subjected to degrading treatment or punishment. (Art. 5)
____ 12. Someone accused
of wrong doing is presumed innocent until proven guilty. (Art. 11 )
____ 13. My personal
space and possessions are respected. (Art. 12 & 17)
____ 14. My school community welcomes students, teachers, administrators,
and staff from diverse backgrounds and cultures, including people not
born in the USA. (Art. 2, 6,13, 14 & 15)
____15. I have the liberty to express my beliefs and ideas (political,
religious, cultural, or other) without fear of discrimination.(Art. 19)
____ 16. Members of my school can produce and disseminate publications
without fear of censorship or punishment. (Art. 19)
____ 17. Diverse voices and perspectives (e.g. gender, race/ethnicity,
ideological) are represented in courses, textbooks, assemblies, libraries,
and classroom instruction. (Art. 2, 19, & 27)
____ 18. I have the opportunity to express my culture through music,
art, and literary form. (Art. 19, 27 & 28)
____ 19. Members of my school have the opportunity to participate (individually
and through associations) in democratic decision-making processes to
develop school policies and rules. (Art. 20, 21, & 23)
____ 20. Members of my school have the right to form associations within
the school to advocate for their rights or the rights of others. (Art.
19, 20, & 23)
____ 21. Members of my school encourage each other to learn about societal
and global problems related to justice, ecology, poverty, and peace.
(Preamble & Art. 26 & 29)
____ 22. Members of my school encourage each other to organize and take
action to address societal and global problems related to justice, ecology,
poverty, and peace. (Preamble & Art. 20 & 29)
____ 23. Members of my school community are able to take adequate rest/recess
time during the school day and work reasonable hours under fair work
conditions. (Art. 23 & 24)
____ 24. Employees in my school are paid enough to have a standard of
living adequate for the health and well-being (including housing, food,
necessary social services and security from unemployment, sickness and
old age) of themselves and their families. (Art. 22 & 25)
____ 25. I take responsibility in my school to ensure other individuals
do not discriminate and that they behave in ways that promote the safety
and well being of my school community. (Art. 1 & 29)
TEMPERATURE POSSIBLE = 100 HUMAN RIGHTS DEGREES
YOUR SCHOOL'S TEMPERATURE _______________
D. Shiman & K. Rudelius-Palmer, Economic and
Social Justice: A Human Rights Perspective (Minneapolis: Human Rights
Resource Center, University of Minnesota, 1999)