SPRING LAKE HEIGHTS — Katherine Palmer, whose biracial son was the target of a racist slur by another student at Spring Lake Heights Elementary school, again brought her concerns about the handling of the incident to the board of education on Monday.
Ms. Palmer, who had described the incident during the board’s April 24 meeting, renewed her concerns, drawing a response from Superintendent and Principal John Spalthoff, as well as expressions of support from several other parents.
She read a statement asserting that the school district needs “urgent change in policy, urgent change in culture and urgent change in the ways we support our students.”
Describing the school’s intervention with the student who had confronted her son with the “N-word” and other racial slurs, she said, “In-school suspension, removal from National Junior Honor Society and counseling are not restorative justice practices; these are consequences.”
“There are children and adults in this school who do not feel comfortable speaking up after receiving or witnessing injustices,” she said. “There are children … who need better support for forgiveness, starting over, making amends and feeling safe while being their authentic selves … Most, if not all, of the people in this room are committed to working together, with you, to create that change, if you are willing.”
Mr. Spalthoff responded, saying, “I want to speak to some of the things that Katherine mentioned … when I look to make change and when I look to do things, I want them done intentionally. And I don’t want it to be … a quick fix.”
He then explained that his goal was to lay the foundation for the diversity, equity and inclusion program [DEI] by introducing it in stages, first through the formal training of some educators in DEI issues and then by using those skills to introduce the topic to students.
“When we did the strategic plan last year — and one of the goals that came out of that was the work in diversity, equity and inclusion — we set intentionally to spend the first year really focused on teacher and staff professional development,” he said, “because [teachers] are uncomfortable. It’s a very polarizing situation, and they want to make sure they do the right thing and provide that environment that you all want for your children — and for all of the kids in this community.”
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