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Growing call for Monroe Schools to be stricter on student racism, increase training

MONROE — Members of the Monroe Equity Council and supporters plan to flood the next school board meeting with calls to act against racism.
The actions being asked are for the district to hire a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) officer, to declare the school district as anti-racist and to commit to across-the-board staff anti-racism training which goes above state minimum levels.
With two school board seats turning over, the Equity Council sees the Monday, Dec. 13 meeting as an opportunity to continue its clarion call. Newly elected school board members Sarah Johnson and Molly Barnes take their seats that night.
The plan of action came out at the end of a well-attended Equity Council panel meeting Dec. 1 where former students and parents discussed mistreatment and racism in schools.
A Nov. 10 confrontation in the Monroe High School parking lot against a Black male student done by a white male student and a white female student reignited calls for action.
The female and her father have since repeatedly harassed the Black male at his workplace, his mother Stephanie Holliman shared in the panel meeting.
“We don’t feel safe” in Monroe, Holliman said. For a while they were secluding themselves in a hotel out of fear for their safety.
The confrontation started when the Black male defended a friend who was being racially bullied.
Police treated the incident as a hate crime. The department concluded its investigation and handed their findings to county prosecutors on Dec. 1, Police Cmdr. Paul Ryan said.
Separately, Monroe High principal Brett Wille is on temporary non-disciplinary administrative leave pending a review, the school announced to parents Friday, after a Friday assembly where Wille “verbally listed derogatory and racial slurs” in trying to illustrate unacceptable language at school. “While the intent of this language was instructive, the impact was harmful,” the all-parent notification read.
During last week’s panel, the Black male’s godmother, Erica Henry, noted how Black residents in Monroe feel they are seen as outsiders in the community because of how few Black people live in the city. (The U.S. Census estimates Monroe is 4% Black, or about 800 Black people among the town’s 20,000 residents. About 15,000 are white.)
Many affected parents said the district does not apply consequences for racism.
The Crecelius family’s son, now-12, broke down in mid-October from being racially harassed at Park Place Middle School. The parents felt the issue was ignored, and “because of no action, my son lost faith,” mom
AJ Crecelius said. He now learns at home.
Panelists also spoke of receiving racist comments by classmates for being Latinx, and how certain teachers and administrators gave a blind eye when students make overtly racist comments during classes.
Members of the Monroe Inclusion Collective, a student group, said it’s past time something is done.
The Collective presented its findings in February 2021 and nothing was done, said member Zoe Yates, now graduated.
The Collective logged nearly 100 incidents of racism within the school district in recent years, but video of the Nov. 10 incident got on social media “and now people are shocked,” Yates said.
In its Monroe Inclusiveness and Anti-Racism/Hate Research Project, Among 89 responding survey members, 58.43% indicated they had experienced anti-LGBTQ+ hate speech within Monroe High School or the district community. Furthermore, 57.3% of respondents had experienced racism and 58.43% had experienced sexism.
The Inclusion Collective report contained multiple suggestions, including that the district set no-tolerance policies for racism and hate; to increase diversity, equity and inclusion training; and to have transparent policies on responding to racism.
Collective member Nathan Duong, also now graduated, said he felt the board tried to push off the students as the collective’s core of seniors would be graduating.
It was “an uphill battle” getting the presentation on the public board agenda in the first place, he noted.
The Equity Council, also, faced difficulties in getting action to happen. It addressed the board numerous times during 2020 and 2021 seeking a response to no avail, Equity Council president Melanie Ryan has
said previously.

Previous coverage on this topic

Calls made to Monroe Schools to act on racism

MONROE — Incidents with racism during November led parents to renew calls to the school district to act. Meanwhile, the Monroe Equity Council will hold a panel discussion this Wednesday, Dec. 1, online at 6 p.m. to discuss the experiences of BIPOC members of the community.

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