The National Education Association (NEA), representing 1.75 million teachers and others in the field of education, is girding for a fight with a resurgent Ku Klux Klan that is recruiting students -- some as young as 10 years of age -- for a new KKK Youth Corps.
NEA warned teachers attending the organization's 1981 convention in Minneapolis early this month that the Klan, although numerically small, "represents a threat that cannot be ignored."
Exploiting racial tensions in schools and intolerance and fears, the Klan is expanding beyond the South and is active, says the NEA, in 22 states, including such industrialized Northeastern states as Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut.
"While a small number is reported as Klan members -- real figures are kept secret but are believed to total about 11,500 -- we don't believe we are overreacting to the reports of KKK youth recruitment," William McGuire told the convention. "It takes only a few fanatics to set off sparks where tension exist."
The number of children who have joined the Klan Youths Corps is hard to determine. However, according to NEA:
* Children in Klan "white power" T-shirts have been seen in a number of states, including a group attending a summer camp near Warrior, Ala., in 1980. The group included both boys and girls who told a CBS television reporter that they are "the future Klan."
* Worried teachers in several states, including Connecticut, have reported questions about the Klan from frightened children, most of them blacks. A 15 -year-old black student asked, "If the Klan comes after me, where can I hide?"
* In Connecticut, a Boy Scout official lost his troop after being charged with efforts to recruit a Scout for the Klan.
* In Decatur, Ala., children wearing Klan T-shirts were among those who set fire to a school bus during an antibusing rally.
The NEA has committed funds "to train, inform, and assist teachers" in combating negative student behavior including that demonstrated "by the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan . . . ." A curriculum guide, developed by the Connecticut Education Association and the NEA for use this fall, traces the history of the Klan.
Lesson plans for all ages, from kindergarten up, encourage class discussions on the broader issues raised by the Klan's existence -- separatism, white supremacy, and racism. A member of the drafting com mittee says, "We let the facts speak for themselves."