Activity 9



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 them.


  • To examine thoughtfully and critically the human rights climate at students' school
  • To connect the need for a safe school environment to international standards of human rights

Age Level: Middle school to adult

Time: 1-2 hours

Materials: Handout 1: Taking the Human Rights Temperature of Your School Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Subject Areas: Social studies


Ask students to evaluate their school's human rights climate, i.e. "take its temperature," by completing Handout 1: Taking the Human Rights Temperature of Your School. Prior to completing the survey, students might conduct research into school conditions, using the topics in the survey as a guide. Each student in the class should complete the survey individually. Although students are asked to think about their school's entire human rights climate, they should especially think about the school's climate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students as well as straight allies and other students--gay and straight dealing with homophobia.

Collect the surveys and compute the average response to each question. Post the responses on a chalkboard or newsprint version of the survey.

Discuss the findings from the survey:

  • What are your reactions to the results of the survey?
  • How did your own evaluation compare to the class averages?
  • What might account for any differences between individual responses and class averages?

Draw on the following questions to move from analysis and evaluation to the development of an action plan:

Looking for patterns

  • In which areas does your school appear to be adhering to or promoting human rights principles?
  • 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.

Looking for explanations

  • How do you explain the existence of such problematic conditions?
  • Do they have race/ethnicity, class, gender, disability, age, or sexual orientation dimensions?
  • Are the issues related to participation in decision-making? Who is included and who isnĂt?
  • Who benefits and who loses/suffers as a result of the existing human rights violations?

Looking at yourself

  • Have you or any of your fellow community members contributed in any way to the construction and perpetuation of the existing climate (e.g. by acting or not acting in certain ways, by ignoring abuses or not reporting incidents)?

Looking at others

  • 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?

Looking ahead

  • 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?

Review survey item #25, stressing the importance of assuming responsibility and action. Then, as a group brainstorm possible actions that individuals and groups might take to improve the human rights situation. See Activity 1, Part 5, p. 13, “ Interrupting human rights violations in school” for one way to structure this part of the activity. The class should try to develop a short list of options for action. For each action, students should identify goals, strategies, and responsibilities.


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