Overview: Participants survey their community to evaluate how human rights enjoyed and strategize how to address abuses they discover.

Time: Variable.

Materials: Handout.


1. Ask students to evaluate their school's human rights climate (e.g., take its "temperature," by completing the Handout: 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 studentsógay and straightódealing with homophobia.

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

3. 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?

4. 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 isn't?

• 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?

5. 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. The class should try to develop a short list of options for action. For each action, students should identify goals, strategies, and responsibilities.


Taking the Human Rights Temperature of Your School


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:

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. Although this is a much more expansive list than that found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is more helpful in assessing the human rights temperature in your school community.

The results should provide a general sense of the school's climate in light of principles found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


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 (e.g., students, teachers, administrators, staff.) At the end, total up your score to determine your overall assessment score for your school.


1 2 3 4 DN

no/never rarely often yes/always don't know

____†1. My school is a place where students are safe and secure. (Articles 3, 5)

____†2. All students receive equal information and encouragement about academic and career opportunities. (Article 2)

____†3. Members of the school community are not discriminated against because of their life style choices, such as manner of dress, association with certain people, and non-school activities. (Articles 2, 16)

____†4. My school provides equal access, resources, activities, and scheduling accommodations for all individuals. (Articles 2, 7)

____†5. Members of my school community will oppose discriminatory or demeaning actions, materials, or slurs in the school. (Articles 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. (Article 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. (Articles 3, 22, 26, 29)

____†8. When conflicts arise, we try to resolve them through non-violent ways. (Articles 3, 28)

____†9. Institutional policies and procedures are implemented when complaints of harassment or discrimination are submitted. (Articles 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. (Articles 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)

____†11. No one in our school is subjected to degrading treatment or punishment. (Article 5)

____†12. Someone accused of wrong-doing is presumed innocent until proven guilty. (Article 11 )

____†13. My personal space and possessions are respected. (Articles 12, 17)

____†14. My school community welcomes students, teachers, administrators, and staff from diverse backgrounds and cultures, including people not born in the USA. (Articles 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. (Article 19)

____†16. Members of my school can produce and disseminate publications without fear of censorship or punishment. (Article 19)

____†17. Diverse voices and perspectives (e.g., sexual orientation, gender, race/ ethnicity, ideological) are represented in courses, textbooks, assemblies, libraries, and classroom instruction. (Articles 2, 19, 27)

____†18. I have the opportunity to express my culture through music, art, and writing. (Articles 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. (Articles 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. (Articles 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 & Articles 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 & Articles 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. (Articles 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. (Articles 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. (Articles 1, 29)



Adapted from: Shiman, David. Teaching Human Rights. Denver, CO: Center for Teaching International Relations, University of Denver, 1999. Written with Kristi Rudelius-Palmer, the University of Minnesota Human Rights Resource Center.