Parents voice frustrations about racist incidents in Greendale school district
GREENDALE (CBS 58) - Parents in Greendale voiced the frustration at a school board meeting Monday.
It’s the first board meeting since videos of a student using racial slurs surfaced on social media.
The parents talked about not only the videos, but what they say was a slow response by the district.
“Unfortunately, we have learned this week of two instances of students using inappropriate and racially charged language,” said Superintendent Dr. Gary Kiltz at the start of the meeting.
Dr. Kiltz read from a prepared statement.
“Greendale schools administration is taking proactive steps to build practices and policies that celebrate and appreciate Greendale's diversity,” he said.
After his comments the public weighed in, and it was clear Dr. Kiltz’s words were not enough.
“You guy are on notice,” said Lisa Jones from Rid Racism Milwaukee.
“Clearly there is a lack of accountability and I’m looking at you and it starts with you,” said Jones.
“The failure of senior administrators to competently handle racial, incidents of racial bias, has emboldened that bias has given it license to thrive,” said a Greendale parent.
Some think the district is dragging their feet before acting.
“With hateful speech and racist incidents that occur, you need to act swiftly and quickly,” said Jones.
“I would also like to see meaningful racial tolerance teaching, not just celebrating diversity,” said another parent whose 5th grade son experienced racial bullying.
One parent who spoke was Diannia Merriett, who says her daughter has been involved in multiple racist incidents in the past.
“It’s time for you guys to start doing something about the racial tension that exists in this district instead of pretending it doesn’t exist and pushing it under the rug, the rug is getting pretty big,” said Merriett.
The district insists they are making a change, but the people who spoke want them to know they won’t stop calling for it.
“Please do not be complicit in the spread of racism in Greendale,” said a parent.
“Now is the time for you to truly act so racism can truly be removed from the schools,” said Jones.
Here is the complete statement from Dr. Kiltz:
Strong public schools and a high quality of life make Greendale an attractive place for young families to live. Greendale Schools is welcoming more and more students from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds. With this increasing diversity, we are working as schools and community to ensure Greendale sees this shift as a strength that provides opportunities to understand new perspectives and discover the similarities we all share.
Unfortunately, we have learned this week of two instances of students using inappropriate and racially charged language. While these matters did not take place on school grounds or during the school day, we have an obligation to make sure that our students feel physically and emotionally safe in our schools. Greendale Schools is committed to the safety and well-being of all students. District administration takes every student, family, and staff concern seriously and investigates all matters brought to our attention. The use of hate speech and harassment has no place in our schools or community.
Greendale Schools' administration is taking proactive steps to build practices and policies that celebrate and appreciate Greendale's diversity. The Greendale School Board has been involved in book studies and regional conversations about equity. Staff are receiving ongoing professional development regarding culturally responsive practices. This includes how to respond to bias, discrimination, and racism.
Greendale Schools is also organizing a community leadership workshop in April with leaders from churches, government, schools, businesses, and community organizations to explore our individual and collective roles in creating an environment of belonging and support for our families. We are also planning a community forum in May with a listening session as a first step in working with community members to generate solutions to make our community a safe place to work, play and learn for all Greendale families.
Our middle and high school students are working to create a more positive climate for all students. High school student leaders are launching a survey of students, staff and the community this spring to get feedback on three possible improvement areas: appreciation of diversity, creating a stronger sense of belonging, and more effective communication. Based on the survey results, they will develop solutions and action steps to meet the needs of our students, families, and community. Please watch for and complete the survey when it is shared. I am excited by the work and inspired by the students' commitment.
I look forward to working with the community to make Greendale a great place for all families.
We are inspiring minds!
Gary Kiltz, Ph.D