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Taking the Class Bias Temperature of Your School

Source: Challenging Class Bias. Toronto: TDSB, 2005. Adapted from Teaching about Human Rights: 9/11 and Beyond A Resource Package for Educators, Grades 7–12, TDSB, 2003; and “Basic Checklists: Criteria for Curriculum Development,” Centre for Women’s Studies In Education – OISE, available online at .

Time: 3 x 70 minutes


Students analyze classism and socio-economic inequities in school environments. As a consequence of their analyses, students plan effective strategies to challenge these inequities, using their existing school structures (e.g. Student Council).


Students use a questionnaire to identify examples of classism in the school. This activity allows students to identify and take action on issues of classism in their school.


  • Class set of Taking the Class Bias Temperature of Your School
  • Blank pieces of (scrap) paper

Teaching/ Learning Strategies

  1. Introduce the lesson by discussing the word privilege. A privilege is a special advantage, benefit, or bonus that some people or groups have. People don’t always earn privileges; often they are born with them.
  2. Ask students to share some examples of privileges they have in the school, family, or community. For example, because they are older, they may have certain school privileges that others don’t.
  3. Explain that some groups of people often have more privileges because society gives some groups more opportunities than others. For example, white people’s skin colour is a privilege because it keeps them from facing the racism that people of colour experience.
  4. Hand out small pieces of scrap paper large enough for students to write on.
  5. Ask students the following question: “Have there been any school situations in which you remember (or know of anyone else) being excluded from activities because you did not have the money required? Examples can be school-work related, extra-curricular, or otherwise. If so, please briefly describe the incident on the piece of paper provided. If you don’t know of any examples, it is all right to leave the piece of paper blank.”
  6. Once the students have completed their writing, ask them to crumple up their piece of paper into a ball, and to randomly toss it in any direction.
  7. Have students pick up the piece of paper that has landed closest to them.
  8. Ask students to read it silently to themselves, turn to their nearest neighbour, and share the examples with each other.
  9. On a flip chart or an overhead, generate a list of examples of class bias in the school.
  10. Give each student a copy of ‘Taking the Class Bias Temperature of Your School’.
  11. Have students fill out the questionnaire to the best of their ability. Total the school temperature at the end.
  12. Ask students to look carefully over their school temperature.
  13. Ask students to work in groups of four or five to compare the results of their temperature test with each other. Ask students to discuss the following questions: What do you see? Is the score particularly high or low?  What do they think your score means?
  14. Based on the results of their temperature test, ask students to identify three things in the school where they see privilege can be used to help them challenge class bias. Here, the teacher should also ask students to think about two or three privileges they think they have that will help them challenge class bias in a responsible way.
  15. Ask students to stay in their groups to brainstorm a list of rules and consequences they would like to implement to help challenge class bias.

      An example:

      Item: the cost of SAC cards

      Class bias because: the cards single out those who cannot afford to pay the fee, and therefore exclude this group of students from participating in school sports teams and/or clubs.

      Possible Solution: Allow students who cannot afford the listed price for the SAC cards to “pay what they can”; raise awareness within the school community that all students should have equal access, therefore the opportunity to participate in extra-curricular activities should not be based on income and/or class.


Have students take their ideas from the brainstorm and write up a proposal that will be addressed to the school administration and school (parent) council. Tell students that their proposal will hopefully bring the issue of class bias to the attention of the administration, with the hope that the administration will want to implement their suggestions for change.


Each of the draft proposals should include the following:

Names of group members and contact information
Breakdown of intentions and goals
Breakdown of tasks and responsibilities
Resources and appendices

      The teacher should look over each of the drafts, and consult with each group for changes and suggestions.

      After the consultations, ask students to produce a final copy and present the proposals to their classmates. Students can present in role, as if they were actually addressing the members of the school administration and school (parent) council.

Students can organize an information fair during lunchtime to share the temperature checklist and their proposal with their peers, teachers, and staff.

Students can also request time at the next school–council meeting to share their work with members of the council.

Taking the Class Bias Temperature of Your School   (3 pages)

Directions: Take the class bias temperature of your school. Read each statement and, in the blank next to it, note your assessment of how accurately the statement describes your school community. (Keep in mind all members of your school: students, teachers, administrators, and staff). At the end, total your score to determine your overall assessment for your school.

A Note to Students: Some items in this questionnaire may not appear to be closely related to socio-economic class issues; this calls on you to broaden your application and usage of terms to include classist behaviours.

Rating Scale

1 – no/ never                        2 – rarely      3 – often        4 – yes/ always


____    1.   My school is a place where students are safe and secure.


____    2.   All students receive equal information and encouragement about academic and career



____    3.   Members of the school community are not discriminated against because of their

lifestyle choices, such as manner of dress, associating with certain people, and choice

of non-school activities.


____    4.   My school provides equal access, resources, activities, and scheduling to    

                    accommodate for all individuals.


____    5.   Members of my school community will oppose any discriminatory or demeaning

actions, materials, or slurs in the school.


____    6.   When someone demeans or violates the rights of another person, the violator is

                  helped to change his or her behaviour.


____    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.


____    8.   In matters related to discipline (including suspension and expulsion), all persons are

assured of a fair hearing, and impartial treatment in the determination of guilt and assignment of punishment.


____    9.   No one in our school is subjected to degrading treatment or punishment regarding his

or her class.


____    10. Members of the school are welcome to participate in any school-related activities

(e.g., sports teams, athletic wear with school logos, clubs, field trips, fundraising activities for extra-curricular activities), regardless of disposable income.


____    11. All students have the opportunity to access the food in the vending machines and the

cafeteria, regardless of disposable income.


____    12. My school community welcomes students, teachers, administrators, and staff from

diverse backgrounds, cultures, and classes. For example, parent/teacher interviews are scheduled with flexibility and convenience so that all parents can attend.


____    13. Members of my school are encouraged to express their backgrounds through music,

art, and literary forms, regardless of their gender, race, or class.


____    14. Diverse voices and perspectives (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity, class, sexual orientation)

are represented in courses, textbooks, assemblies, libraries, and classroom instruction.


____    15. Evaluation policies of the school do not assume that all students have access to

technological equipment (e.g., computers, the Internet, printers) and special presentation materials (e.g., display boards, glossy paper).


____    16. Evaluation policies of the school do not assume that all students have access to equal

amounts of time for homework, as some students may need to hold part-time jobs to help provide for their families.


____    17. Members of the school community have the opportunity to challenge inappropriate

language and/or perspectives that may be represented in courses, textbooks, assemblies, libraries, and classroom instruction, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, and/or class.


____    18. Institutional policies and procedures are implemented when anyone submits a

complaint of harassment or discrimination.


____    19. Members of my school have the right to form associations within the school to

advocate for their rights and/or the rights of others.


____    20. Members of my school encourage each other to learn about societal and global

problems related to justice, ecology, poverty, and peace.


____    21. 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.


____    22. 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.


____    23. Members of my school community are familiarized with the supports and resources

to help students choose post-secondary pathways, i.e., Ontario Student Assistance    

Program (OSAP), Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP), scholarships.


____    24. Members of my school are encouraged to be conscious of bias in their own lives.


____    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.


Temperature possible = 100 Human Rights Degrees


Your School’s Temperature _________________________________


Congratulations for undertaking this survey. Now let’s take a look at what your class bias

temperature means to you and your school.


Your School


What your temperature means


80–100 degrees

Well done! The members of your school community have taken class bias issues seriously. It is clear that your school has already become aware of the facts involved with classism, and has done an impressive job on challenging class bias. You may now want to think about addressing the remaining key area(s) where the score was not as high, as well as how to share ideas of what your school is doing with other schools that may not have scored as well. Keep up the good work.

60–79 degrees


Great job! The school community has already implemented a number of quality initiatives to challenge class bias. You and your peers can now join the effort and further focus on other key areas that need improvement.

40–59 degrees

This is a good start. Members of your school have detected class bias in key areas and have started being active participants in planning initiatives to address the issues. You and your peers can help by putting the ideas into action.

20–39 degrees


Your school has already begun the dialogue on class bias in some areas in your school. You and your peers can extend this dialogue and plan initiatives to challenge class bias in one or two key areas in the school.



0–19 degrees

The members of your school community are aware of the classism that is in your school. But without proper support and resources, the dialogue around challenging class bias may not have been started (or sustained). You and your peers can help restart this dialogue by approaching a teacher or an administrator to share your findings and to identify key area(s) in which you can do more research.


Below are some suggested actions you and your school can take in your efforts to challenge class bias. Remember, no matter where you scored on the temperature scale, you and your school can take on the role of being leaders to raise awareness in your community about these issues.

  • Speak to your teachers or administrators about your findings.
  • Work with your administrators to identify key area(s) where class bias exists in the school.
  • Together with your administrators, come up with a plan (with small increments of attainable goals) that the school can work on over a set amount of time in order to challenge class bias.
  • Put together an information session and/or bulletin board to raise awareness of the following: classism, poverty, homelessness, unemployment, etc. Contact community agencies to learn more about what they do.
  • Create your own checklists for detecting class bias (e.g., field trip checklists).
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