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A look at tolerance

L.A. County Sheriff’s program teaches school about hate crime

Posted: February 8, 2009 1:08 a.m.
Updated: February 8, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has developed a mobile teaching program to educate high school freshman about the dangers and consequences of hate crimes, and it appears it's already had an impact.

"I would never get violent or hate someone because of a difference between us," Valencia High School freshman Ryan Shannon said. "I have definitely learned a lot from this program. It's made my views stronger."

The Stop Hate And Respect Everyone program is touring county school districts and visited Valencia High School, where a biracial member of the freshman class was among those impacted.

"We are the future, and every action we take effects our lives as well as the lives of others," said Rachael Sheed.

Sheriff's Chief Neal Tyler of the Sheriff's Field Operations Bureau developed the program in an effort to reduce hate crimes among teenagers.

Tyler's Region One area, which includes Santa Clarita Valley, was reported to have the highest rates of incidents involving hate crimes in the county.

Out of all of the schools visited so far by the project, "the Santa Clarita Valley has the most interactive students," visiting Deputy Gregory Gabriel said. "It's all about the kids and making that impression."

Effects of the program have been positive so far, officials said.

"It really makes you think about who and what you are, and not take anything for granted," student Nickayla Rivera, 14, said.

Asked how they view intolerance and discrimination, Sheed and her friend, Rivera, beamed in unison and responded: "Let people be who they are."

Sheriff's representatives and Greg Lee, diversity coordinator for the William S. Hart Union High School District, met at the Museum of Tolerance in downtown Los Angeles to come up with a solution for the
prevalence of hate crimes.

They created "mobile exhibits" of the museum, which consist of a trailer that travels to schools in the region to administrate the program.

"Not everyone can go to the museum, so we wanted to bring it to them," Lee said.

Each trailer seats 24 students, where they watch a one-hour video dramatizing hate crimes and their consequences.

The video also includes interviews from the victims and perpetrators, as well as an in-depth look at the victims' families.

"The video really seems to touch the kids on deeper levels," Deputy Dave Jennings said. "We get them approaching us afterwards with more involved questions, and we know we've made an impact."

The video demonstration is followed by examples of students' personal experiences.

The program visited Hart High School in January and school officials said there is still a buzz on campus.

"It's taken the program nine days to work through the freshman student body here, Valencia High Assistant Principal Vince Ferry said. "They arrive at 8 a.m. and finish at 3 p.m., teaching back-to-back two-hour sessions each day.

"They don't leave until we've taught them all."

Many Hart district students learned intolerance isn't tolerated.

"People all have their own opinions," Gabriel said. "But we must learn to accept ourselves and those around us."

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