Politi­cians re­spond to racism in schools

Some of the newly elected will be tasked with find­ing so­lu­tions to hate, bias

The Capital - - FRONT PAGE - By Lauren Lump­kin llump­kin@capgaznews.com

Nooses and writ­ten threats. Swastikas and Con­fed­er­ate flags.

Ch­e­sa­peake High School has seen racist acts tar­get­ing African-Amer­i­cans. These in­ci­dents re­cently spread to Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Mid­dle School.

While Anne Arun­del County Pub­lic Schools has taken steps to ad­dress the is­sue, black and Jew­ish stu­dents in the area re­main the tar­gets of racism and an­tiSemitism. This in­cludes a mes­sage writ­ten on a sheet of pa­per stu­dents use to sign in and out of coun­sel­ing ses­sions that said, “Kill all blacks,” and a swastika drawn on a toi­let seat in a boys’ bath­room.

The midterm elec­tions in­tro­duced a new crop of politi­cians to state and lo­cal of­fices, and some of them will be tasked with find­ing so­lu­tions.

Steuart Pittman, the county ex­ec­u­tive­elect who beat in­cum­bent Steve Schuh with 52 per­cent of the vote, said more sup­port is needed for the stu­dents di­rectly af­fected by acts of hate.

“It’s not the same as teas­ing. This shouldn’t be taken lightly,” Pittman said. “The vic­tims of these in­ci­dents need to be of­fered coun­sel­ing. The im­pact on these chil­dren should not be taken lightly.”

He also called for change at the class­room level, say­ing stu­dents should learn about the legacy of slav­ery — par­tic­u­larly in Mary­land. He ad­vo­cated for manda­tory course­work on di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion which, ac­cord­ing to schools Su­per­in­ten­dent George Ar­lotto, is in the early plan­ning stages.

“I feel like the stu­dents in this county need to un­der­stand the his­tory of slav­ery and racism in this com­mu­nity,” Pittman said.

“It’s un­for­tu­nate that their par­ents have not taught them this his­tory and they come to school with hate­ful at­ti­tudes, but the school sys­tem has to ad­dress it and deal with what they’re given. Even if the at­ti­tudes in their house­holds are the prob­lem, we need to ed­u­cate them in schools.”

Among other new­com­ers is Nathan Volke. The District 3 coun­cil­man-elect joins a group of six new faces on the Anne Arun­del County Coun­cil.

Volke echoed the sen­ti­ment of Ar­lotto, who has called for a com­mu­ni­ty­wide re­sponse to racism in county schools.

“Nine­teen per­cent of the time, the schools have the stu­dents,” Volke said. “The schools share some part in it, but I think we as a com­mu­nity also have a part in it. I think we need to work in the schools to part­ner with PTAs and the school board to get some unity. There’s no place for this in our schools.”

Del. Nic Kipke was re-elected in District 31B. The Ch­e­sa­peake High alum has rep­re­sented the Pasadena area — dubbed “Kipke coun­try” by Schuh — for 12 years.

“These types of racist dis­plays are un­ac­cept­able and con­demned by our en­tire com­mu­nity,” Kipke said. “I know the school sys­tem has been do­ing a lot to ad­dress this.”

The school district cre­ated a stu­dent eq­uity team at Ch­e­sa­peake High, de­signed to re­lay in­for­ma­tion to ad­min­is­tra­tors about school cli­mate. Kipke said he plans to reach out to the group and lis­ten to their ideas.

Kipke also men­tioned the acts of hate seen at the high school may be lim­ited to a small group of stu­dents whose ac­tions are “bring­ing every­body down.”

“It’s a shame be­cause it’s de­press­ing all the other kids,” Kipke said. “It seems like we’re on a tread­mill where these in­ci­dents pop up ev­ery once in a while. The thing I’m con­cerned about is ev­ery time one of these things hap­pens, it be­comes sen­sa­tion­al­ized and I think it mo­ti­vates the be­hav­ior.”

At­tempts to in­ter­view Brian Chisholm, new to the House of Del­e­gates, were un­suc­cess­ful.

Terry Gil­le­land, cur­rent Board of Ed­u­ca­tion vice pres­i­dent, is in a unique po­si­tion.

While he lost the race to rep­re­sent District 5 on the school board, he will re­main on the board to com­plete his term as vice pres­i­dent and District 31 rep­re­sen­ta­tive. That mean’s he’ll con­tinue to have a say in the di­rec­tion of the school board and how it re­sponds to racism.

“AACPS has a zero-tol­er­ance pol­icy on racism and we need to en­force the pol­icy when these in­ci­dents oc­cur,” Gil­le­land said in an email.

Gil­le­land was ap­pointed to the leg­isla­tive District 31 seat on the school board in 2016. The district in­cludes Pasadena and Sev­erna Park.

Tues­day’s elec­tion rep­re­sents the school district’s move away from that struc­ture. Af­ter the Novem­ber 2020 elec­tion, ev­ery school board mem­ber will be an elected of­fi­cial from one of the county’s seven coun­cil­manic dis­tricts.

Gil­le­land added he ap­proves of the steps the school sys­tem has taken so far. Those ini­tia­tives in­clude small ad­vi­sory groups for up­per and mid­dle school stu­dents to dis­cuss dif­fi­cult top­ics in a struc­tured en­vi­ron­ment and com­mu­nity cir­cles — used in class­rooms to en­cour­age stu­dents and teach­ers to ex­change in­for­ma­tion about them­selves.

“The en­gage­ment (in those ini­tia­tives) is a start and it pro­motes both di­a­logue and un­der­stand­ing. I’m proud of the work of our stu­dents and teach­ers who are en­gaged,” Gil­le­land said.





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