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For Educators - K-12 Promising Approaches 

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Civil Rights Teams

Grade level: 3-12

Promising Approaches

  • Instruction in Government, History, Law, and Democracy
  • Guided Discussions of Issues and Current Events
  • Service-learning and community service
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Simulations of Democratic Processes

Special Features
Civic Learning Goals
Evaluation Studies
Required Resources
Available Resources
Professional Development Opportunities
Snapshots of Practice in Action
Contact Information


A Civil Rights Team ideally includes at least two faculty advisors, one community member and an average of 10-12 students  working together towards  making positive changes in  a school’s social climate. Some teams have many more students involved. In general, the mission of the Civil Rights Team Project is to increase the safety of high school, middle school and elementary school students and to reduce the incidence of bias-motivated harassment and violence in schools. Project highlights include:

Training, encouraging, and supporting student members of Civil Rights Teams to be leaders, in collaboration with their teachers, administrators, parents and community members in their school communities, and helping to develop the skills and confidence to address incidents of bias and harassment.

Fostering a collaborative effort among the Office of the Attorney General, local law enforcement agencies, Maine schools, parents and community members to address issues of bias and prejudice.

Training and encouraging teachers and administrators at schools to identify and respond to incidents of bias and harassment before those incidents escalate to serious violence.

Instilling in students the belief and understanding that they can make a difference and that they can, by acting alone and as a group, change the climate in their schools so that all students feel safe, valued, respected and welcome, and go to school in an environment where they can focus on their education rather than dodging tormentors or enduring or witnessing hateful language and behaviors.

Special Features

Civil Rights Teams use  the power of student voice, leadership, and student directed-activities to focus on important issues and to move forward to create a positive change in the school climate and in the larger community.

Civic Learning Goals

Civic Knowledge

  • Key historical periods, episodes, themes, and experiences of individuals and groups
  • Key principles, documents, and ideas essential to constitutional democracy
  • Social and political networks for making change, such as voluntary associations or local organizing

Civic Skills

  • Critical thinking, active listening, analyzing public policies, problems and assets, and understanding multiple perspectives
  • Communicating one’s position through writing or speaking
  • Planning and implementing civic action through managing, organizing, and building consensus
  • Voicing opinion through electoral and non-electoral means, such as voting, lobbying, protesting, and organizing.

Civic Dispositions

  • Developing tolerance, respect, and appreciation of difference
  • Developing concern with the rights and welfare of others
  • Developing a belief in one’s ability to make a difference
  • Developing attentiveness to civic matters and a desire to become involved in the civic life of the community

Evaluation Studies

The project was evaluated by William K. Preble, Ed. D., New England College in June 2002. The evaluation is available upon request.

Required Resources

School applies for acceptance into program; schedules a faculty in-service training and commits to making team available to attend regional and statewide training events.

Available Resources

Tool box and services of a Regional Coordinator. The Table of Contents is available upon request. The toolbox contains a wealth of team-building activities, short and long-term projects and video resources.

Professional Development Opportunities

All faculty members that serve as faculty advisors receive annual training in the fall of each academic year.  Faculty advisors are also regularly notified about other professional development opportunities.  In addition, staff and faculty of schools in the project receive in-service training at no cost to the school.  

Snapshots of the Practice in Action

Edward Little High School: On November 1, 2005 the Civil Rights Team in Auburn Maine held a Diversity Day.  The entire school participated in this special event.  Over sixty speakers visited the school to lead discussion on issues of diversity.  A Canadian dance troupe preformed a dance skit highlighting issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, diversity, sexual orientation, domestic violence, and gender equality. Teachers taught a lesson plan to all students focusing on diversity, tolerance and acceptance.  At the end of the event, the Civil Rights Team created a video about tolerance and the many facets of diversity to shown at the closing ceremony to the entire student body. The day ran very smoothly and students involved were extremely proud of their work.

Albert S. Hall School (elementary):  Our Civil Rights Team worked on several projects this year.  We continued to have our Character Store.  It was held five times during the school year and students could turn in cards they had received for making appropriate decisions when others were being  bullied or for having positive attitudes and helping students who were  excluded by others.  We assisted Colby College students in administering surveys to assess school climate.  The team also put on a school-wide skit based on the book, Say Something, to demonstrate the harmful effects of bullying and the difference that bystanders can make.

Livermore Falls Middle School: The Civil Rights Team held a student led Civil Rights Activity Day. Forty one students participated in facilitating different activities pertaining to the Maine Civil Rights Act.  The Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Education and Enforcement, Thomas Harnett, also presented a workshop and addressed the entire student body.  The team also held a School Spirit Week with a School Safety Summit. We had police officers providing information on school safety and substance abuse. The Sexual Assault Center also participated in this activity.

Searsport District High School:  The Civil Rights Team created an activity where we chose civil rights quotes, talked about what they meant to us and then hung them all around the school.   We went to “Challenge Day” as a team, and will be bringing it to our school next year for Freshmen & Sophomores.  The Challenge Day increased our skills as a team and made us more effective in our school.  We report "courageous acts" that we see others doing in our school to increase school safety and acceptance of all students.  We had a group of CRT members go to the legislative hearing on LD1196, “An Act to Prohibit Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation”.  Some of our team members testified.  We also created and conducted a mock election, the results of which were sent to the Legislature to let the members know what percentage of our student body supported LD 1196.  The team also began work on a video to demonstrate to other students the hurt that is caused by discrimination.

Contact Information

Thomas Harnett
Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights
Education and Enforcement
or Debi Gray
Project Administrator, Office of the Attorney General
6 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333

Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools: Education for Democracy