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Know Your Classmates Helps Teachers Tackle Stereotypes and Prejudice to Make Schools More Inclusive for All

AUGUST 15, 2017

Contact: Barbara Zamost
Phone: (415) 987-2810
Email: [email protected]


SAN RAFAEL, Calif. -- Hatred and prejudice are learned behaviors—but so are compassion and integrity. As many students head back to school filled with fear and uncertainty from the recent violence in Charlottesville, teachers need to discuss differences in ways that build inclusion and respect among their students rather than divide and isolate them.

“This is exactly why we created Know Your Classmates curriculum, campaign and national awareness day -- to lift up all students who have felt judged and not accepted for who they are, ” says Laura Talmus, co-founder and executive director of Beyond Differences. “We need to educate young people and elevate them as student leaders to eliminate stereotypes and prejudices that hurt Muslim-American children, LGBTQ youth, undocumented students and English-language learners and make everyone feel like they belong.”

Know Your Classmates is a free program and includes curriculum and activities that foster discussions and interactive exercises around cultural, religious and identity differences. Launched in 2016, the program was adopted by 700 schools around the country.  This year, Beyond Differences expects to reach over 1,000 schools in all 50 states.

The program guides students through healthy and open relationships among classmates from the moment school starts and help students from diverse backgrounds discover what they have in common.  Know Your Classmates curriculum topics include:  Exploring Self Identity, Do I Belong?; Healthy Communication Recognizing Stereotypes and Embracing Differences; Living in the United States; Human Connection - Empathy; and Compassion; Diverse Expression of Gender; Diverse Expression of Culture; Diverse Expression of Love; Student Leadership: Plan and Prepare Know Your Classmates Day, which will take place nationally on October 20, 2017; Lead Know Your Classmates Day; and Continue the Conversation.

“Every day, students are hearing hateful language and seeing violence in the media that divides our country and instills fear,“ Talmus adds. “We find that unacceptable and have solutions for the thousands of teachers who need help with this national disaster that affects every child.”

Beyond Differences creates positive prevention initiatives, such as Know Your Classmates and No One Eats Alone that can change the culture in middle schools to be more welcoming, so that every student feels accepted and valued by their peers. Currently, more than 3,500 schools in all 50 states use Beyond Differences materials in their classrooms.

For more information or to receive Know Your Classmates activity kit free of charge, visit knowyourclassmates.org.

About Beyond Differences
Founded in 2009, Beyond Differences is the only student-led nonprofit organization and social justice movement dedicated to ending social isolation. Beyond Differences believes that exclusion no longer needs to be an accepted part of middle culture and students can lead the way to make meaningful change in their community. For more information, visit beyonddifferences.org.


National Programs

Know Your Classmates

Our innovative national programs have inspired a cultural and behavioral shift at middle schools and high schools across the country. Join our movement to end social isolation by bringing one or all of these programs to your school.

Know Your Classmates is designed to explore middle school youth's identity and belonging, understand traditions, and recognize stereotypes. Multi-cultural and multi-faith backgrounds are common in today's schools and Know Your Classmates is speaking honestly with children about their feelings and experiences with one another. Know Your Classmates Day is Friday, October 23, 2020!

No One Eats Alone

No One Eats Alone™ teaches everyone how to make friends at lunch, often the most difficult part of the school day. Created and organized by students, this is our most popular program where schools in all 50 United States participate! National No One Eats Alone Day is Friday, February 12, 2021.

Be Kind Online

Be Kind Online is a powerful engagement program for middle school youth, their teachers and families. Focused on creating inclusive communities online, particularly learning to respond to digital gossip to reduce social isolation, Be Kind Online Day is May 14, 2021.

All of our programs encourage taking the pledge to never exclude others, reaching out to someone new, and spreading the word that inclusion is cool!