Red Wing School District asks for input on anti-harassment policyHow the Red Wing School District handles bullying and sexual and racial harassment was the topic of a community meeting Tuesday night.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
How the Red Wing School District handles bullying and sexual and racial harassment was the topic of a community meeting Tuesday night.
“I hope I’m not doing all the talking tonight,” Supt. Karsten Anderson said at the beginning of the meeting, explaining that he wanted to hear concerns or questions about the district’s policies. The state and federal governments require the district to have specific procedures and policies regarding discrimination.
The meeting, held in the Twin Bluff Middle School library, was open to the public, but only four community members attended. Red Wing High School Principal Beth Borgen, Director of Community Education Dawn Wettern and Board members Heidi Jones and Mike Christensen were also in attendance.
Two community members who have children enrolled in Red Wing schools brought up concerns about students being bullied on buses, adding that for their children, “that’s where the majority of it happens.”
Anderson said that currently, the bus company will notify the district about any incidents that happen on the bus, which will then be turned over for investigation by the district’s human rights officer.
Christensen said that communication between the bus companies and the district has “been an issue in the past.” But Borgen said those issues have been lessened with its current bus company First Student.
“If there are behavior incidents, they’re very good about telling us,” she said.
Bruce Ause, member of Red Wing’s chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, praised the school’s openness towards discussion of gays and lesbians.
“We very seldom hear about kids that are harassed in Red Wing schools because of that issue,” Ause said. “The last few years, a lot of kids say ‘What’s the big deal?’”
PFLAG members are invited into the high school health classes about twice a year to give presentations, share stories and answer questions, Ause said.
The district willingness to discuss sexuality puts it “light years ahead of a lot of school districts,” Ause added.
Still, community members brought up concerns about racial issues and the achievement gap between white and minority students.
Suggestions included hiring more minority teachers and working more closely with the Prairie Island Indian Community and Red Wing’s Hispanic community. They also suggested encouraging and allowing teachers to have open conversations with students when questions about race or sexuality arise.
“To be able to have an open conversation diffuses a lot of stuff,” Christensen said.
Tuesday’s meeting was the result of a complaint filed in Dec. 2009 with the Office of Civil Rights pertaining to the 2009 “wigger” or “wangster” day incident where students dressed up in stereotypical black clothing.
After that filing, the OCR and the district agreed on a series of actions that the district needed to take, which included holding meetings, revising policies and submitting reports to the OCR. Anderson said the meeting was the last one that the OCR required.
“But we may want to continue that,” he said. “We got a lot of good feedback.”
The lawsuit that former student Quera Pruitt filed last summer against the district alleging that the non-school sanctioned “wigger” day violated her rights is still ongoing. A settlement conference was held April 12; neither side reached an agreement.