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LINCOLN — Nebraska sports and education leaders united Wednesday to send a message to bullies and bigots.

Officials involved in K-12 schools and athletics signed a statement calling on people to respect “human dignity” and quash bullying and discrimination in schools and at athletic events.

The statement is the latest effort by state education officials to advocate for more respect and kindness in schools in response to several ugly racial incidents last school year.

In metro Omaha schools districts, educators in public and private schools have launched a campaign for kindness under the banner #BeKind.

Wednesday’s statement calls on local school officials to push back against bullies and bigots.

“Conduct by any person that does not show respect for and courtesy to other persons in Nebraska schools and any school activity is prohibited and shall not be tolerated — period,” it says.

Signers included officials from the Nebraska Department of Education, Nebraska School Activities Association and the state teachers’ union.

At a press conference outside the capitol in Lincoln, officials described their written statement as a “statement of principle.”

“We have to be honest. Not all of our kids are feeling welcome. We must realize that when racist taunts, bullying, comments about sexual orientation or sexual harassment are experienced by even one of our children, it is unacceptable and must be addressed swiftly and with conviction,” said Maddie Fennell, executive director of the Nebraska State Education Association, who also taught for 27 years.

The NSEA is an organization of more than 28,000 educators across the state.

Wednesday’s public statement was in response to several ugly racial incidents last school year.

Discrimination and bullying violates the principles in the U.S. Constitution, Nebraska Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, the statement says.

“Students in our schools have been experiencing negative, harassing and bullying conduct during the school day, and at school activities by the spectators attending those events or, and at times by opponents in an activity, that is directed at the other school’s participants and spectators, often with a racial component,” it says. “Such conduct is unacceptable and does not reflect the foregoing basic tenets of our society.”

Signers include the Nebraska Department of Education, the Nebraska School Activities Association, the Nebraska Council of School Administrators, the Nebraska Association of School Boards, the NSEA, the Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association, the Nebraska Coaches Association and the Nebraska State Athletic Administrators Association.

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