The Lewiston School District has started “a diversity group” after reports of racist incidents involving students were raised at a school board meeting last month.
Director of Student Services Kimberly Eimers told the school board Monday night that the group of community members and district staff met for the first time earlier this month.
As part of their work, the group has looked into the policies and protocols of the district and the state of Idaho on harassment and intimidation. The group plans to analyze the information and come up with suggestions on how to strengthen the district’s response to racism.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, two parents urged the district to make changes that would include policies targeting racist behavior.
Marlowe Daly-Galeano thanked the district for providing a diversity club at the high school, but said more must be done to eliminate racism from the schools.
She encouraged the school board to implement anti-racist training for faculty and staff, support development of culturally sensitive curriculum and offer anti-racist programs for students.
“We must go beyond embracing diversity and we must do even more to eliminate racism in our schools,” Daly-Galeano said. “... Please make full use of this wonderful opportunity to build a culture where all our kids can thrive.”
Diana Ames, another Lewiston resident, also addressed the board, stating racist behavior should not be lumped under the category of bullying.
“It goes so much further than that and it’s so tremendously damaging to the community,” Ames said. “... It’s on us as adults to move forward in this and I urge you to take some of (Daly-Galeano’s) excellent suggestions and make this a priority.”
Christine Jorgens thanked the district for taking the issue seriously. At last month’s meeting, Jorgens told the board about a group of students who chased a minority classmate from Webster Elementary School to her home, while yelling racial slurs.
Jorgens said Superintendent Bob Donaldson quickly scheduled a meeting with the parents who voiced concerns last month. She also encouraged others to continue sharing their stories of racist events at school board meetings.
“Oftentimes, things like this gain momentum ... and die down,” Jorgens said. “That’s not going to happen this time.”
The district’s diversity group consists of 14 people, and includes Jeff Guillory, the former director of diversity education at Washington State University, who will serve as an expert that can help guide the process.
In other school board news:
The district reaffirmed motions it had previously approved to reconfigure Lewiston’s schools next year into kindergarten-through-fifth-grade elementary schools, sixth-through-eighth-grade middle schools and a high school that will for the first time include ninth graders.
Late last month, the board held a work session on the transition plans for the change.
Schedules, class offerings and other details are still being finalized, according to Assistant Superintendent Lance Hansen, but he said there would be meetings at a later date to get information about the changes out to parents.
“This is pretty monumental in the sense we are totally changing how we do school,” School Board Member Brad Cuddy said.
Centennial Elementary School received a $5,000 grant through the Lewis-Clark Valley Healthcare Foundation to purchase an additional play structure for the school’s playground.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, first grade teacher Melissa Stroupe asked the board to implement a schedule that reviews curriculum adoption to address what she called “piecemealing curriculum.” Stroupe expressed concerns about how the district has implemented new curriculum in the past, stating the district sometimes does not provide the necessary materials needed for instruction. She also asked the school board to include educators in the process of adopting curriculum.
Tomtas may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2294. Follow her on Twitter @jtomtas.