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Room overflows as Oconomowoc School Board takes up resolution to discuss privilege, diversity in school

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OCONOMOWOC, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The Oconomowoc School board voted Tuesday evening to pass a resolution, in part, about privilege.

The topic of privilege being discussed at the school grabbed national attention in January. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the school held an assembly where privilege was discussed -- which prompted complaints from some parents. Despite coverage that the district then banned discussion on privilege, the superintendent says that wasn't the case.

Since then, a petition to continue diversity programming in Oconomowoc schools has gotten over two-thousand signatures.

On Tuesday, the board did pass the resolution, but not in it's entirety.

After about an hour of public comment and about an hour of discussion among board members, they left some of the items for later -- one member said the resolution is only half-done.

The Oconomowoc school board passed one of four items on the resolution.

The item that passed supports discussion of privilege "in approved courses."

What didn't pass would have supported those discussions during school-wide discussions and "Pride Period" which is similar to home-room.

The last item would alert parents of any school-wide discussions about privilege and allow them to opt-out their student.

"After having read the proposed resolution, I disagree with point 4, where parents are being informed of the school-wide activities on these said topics: race and diversity. To give them the option to opt-out should not be the case. My black children to not get to opt out of living as black children... already at 9 and 17, they have alraedy experienced overt and blatant racism," said Tricia Newlands.

There was discussion to table the entire resolution, but after voting on the first item, the board discussed holding a townhall meeting for input on how to proceed.

A full audience of parents, students and community members spilled into an overflow room. No parent at this meeting or the previous school board meeting spoke out entirely against privilege being discussed in school.

The school board did receive gratitude by the same woman that created an online petition to keep diversity discussions in Oconomowoc schools.

"This is no small commitment and you guys are under a lot of public scrutiny as public officials so I know that this is not easy work and I appreciate everything that you're doing to hear us out. My challenge to you as the school board tonight is to not allow your resolution to be a thing that just quiet so the masses but instead to take action on your resolution. To put action behind your words," said Amanda Hart.

Hart started the change.org petition, and she's a mother to children in the district.

In a statement, the school says an incident where students weren't allowed to hold a "privilege walk" was taken out of context, and while they did get complaints from parents and community members, the school states discussions of privilege have always been allowed.

The issue of privilege was not the only issue parents were fired up about tonight. There were also discussions about the theater director and the high school principal's departure.

Watch the full meeting here:

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