The newly formed Jefferson Township Diversity Committee conducted its first “Teach-in” training in front of the Jefferson Township School principals, administrators, and supervisors in August. Former students, parents, and community activists led the event. Speakers recounted their experiences within the school district and offered insights to action that can be taken to make meaningful change.

“Our goal is to start a conversation in the community regarding prejudice, bullying, and racism,” said Christine Rojas-Malloy, current president of the Jefferson Diversity Committee. “We are thankful to Superintendent Jeanne Howe not only for inviting us to speak, but for pledging to make diversity and inclusion training a focus for staff.”

Over a half dozen parents, alumni, and students spoke to the staff about their experiences in the Jefferson Township Schools and how deeply it affected them. They described instances of racism and/or bullying that they had experienced while in the Jefferson Schools and how it made them feel. The aim was not to accuse or to air grievances but to shed light on the real and long-lasting emotions that victims of discrimination face and help administrators empathize with their student population.

Local activists and district parents discussed microaggression, overt aggressions, and bullying that have impacted a range of students including Black, Hispanic, Asian, students with learning disabilities, and even students who were just “different” than their peers. Keith Peters asked the administrators to reflect on this and gave a warning about the long-term effects of racial bias and bullying. “I don’t want my kids to go through the same things I did. The psychological damage of bullying is real. You carry it with you your whole life.”

Founded in July of this year, the Jefferson Township Diversity Committee is a grass roots group dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion in the community. The group is led by community activists, teachers, alumni, and parents that live or work in Jefferson Township.  The group hopes to not only finance and facilitate professional development for local staff and administration, but also hopes to host fun, cultural events within the community. For more information, please visit jtdiversity.com

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