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District responds to protesters’ demands

By Kendra Lamer

262-306-5095 klamer@conleynet.com

WEST BEND — The West Bend School District has responded to the list of demands from protesters last week, highlighting several initiatives taken by the district to address racial injustice.

On June 15, four alumni — Jada Williams, Olivia McClain, Lindsay Kramer and Alina Prahl —organized a protest at Regner Park. Black speakers from West Bend and Milwaukee shared their experiences, poetry and music to tell others about growing up as a person of color.

A group of more than 100 protesters then marched to the WBSD district office to give district leaders a list of 10 demands.

The demands are: make a statement regarding WBSD’s stance on current events regarding police brutality, racism and social justice; remove police liaisons from schools; enhance and increase funding for counseling, youth programming and rehabilitative programs to replace disciplinary actions; hire black educators and

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school counselors; require anti-racism training and professional development for all staff; establish a department or committee devoted to diversity, inclusion and equitable education; support a DAI (diversity and inclusion) representative at school board meetings; restructure the social studies curriculum and mandate lessons on privilege, oppression and racism, and highlight work and lives of black and POC leaders in other subjects; set community guidelines on what qualifies as hate speech and educate students; and create a platform or space for students to give feedback and ideas.

Laura Jackson, WBSD assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, confirmed that members of the executive leadership team have received a copy of these demands.

“There have been a number of activities taking place in the West Bend School District in the past year and more are scheduled or planned for the rest of 2020, and in 2021 and 2022, to inform and train staff on issues of racial injustice and social justice,” she said.

The district highlighted several activities from recent years to address racial injustice: In 2019 and 2020, the district had small groups of staff work together to examine equity and how it is achieved; staff members participated in Intercultural Development Inventory in 2019 with more inventories scheduled for 2020; WBSD literary specialists and instructional coaches attended training with a nationally-known educator on creating more equitable school spaces last year; instructional coaches also participated in training, provided through the Department of Public Instruction, which focused on educational equity in mathematics and literacy; in August, the entire WBSD leadership team is scheduled to begin training on developing a greater understanding of racial issues.

More than 100 staff members will attend several days of training; WBSD has developed an internal list of more than 40 resources for staff to read and view. DPI also released a detailed list of resources available to staff; during regular review cycles, the district may address these topics; WBSD is a member of the Closing the Achievement Gap (CAGC) of South Eastern Wisconsin, which includes 36 school districts. One of its goals is to hire more minority teachers and administrators; and there are multicultural clubs in three schools. WBSD said they support any additional clubs being formed and assist in the process.

“As our students and staff return to our schools in September, we recognize that as a school district, we must intentionally prepare to support their social and emotional needs around the continued pandemic and the events around racial injustice,” said Jackson. “We are ready to work with staff on identifying and supporting social and emotional needs, and to also support students as they process events that are dominating the news this summer.”

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