Jefferson City Public Schools hopes diversity training sparks change

Posted on 10 November 2017 at 8:37pm

JEFFERSON CITY - Jefferson City Public School District hosted another meeting Friday morning to discuss diversity, this time among their central office with more than 50 administrators, human resources staff and support staff.

Over the past month, JCPS hosted three community forums to facilitate conversations about diversity. 

Superintendent Larry Linthacum facilitated the meetings and said the district planned them after one of their students posted a racist photo of four students earlier this fall.

“We had a situation that happened outside our community, outside our school, but it affected the learning environment at school,” said Linthacum. 

On September 21, the school district sent a letter home to parents and staff members stating it would host three meetings. 

The letter said in part, “We are assessing where we are, and developing plans moving forward in three important areas: demonstrating acceptance and understanding for all, fidelity of implementation of diversity training for all staff, parent and community engagement in the areas of race and diversity.”

About 150 members of the community attended the meetings.

Linthacum said the school purposefully did not host the meetings at any of the schools because it is a conversation that needs to happen in the community and with the parents, not just the school. 

“This isn’t something to take light of," he said. "The racism exists and when those differences, and those are real, those are things that have been around a long time. And you’re not going to fix it over night, there’s not a silver bullet, and so we’re just trying to have discussions and when those things happen. 

He stressed the need the school has to teach differences in the classroom and among staff. He also wants to change their hiring and training practices.

"You know, our staffing, does it reflect our student population? There’s an area we know we can improve. Our diversity training for our existing staff. What does that look like? How do we teach about acceptance and understanding when there are differences? How we work through those is important." 

One parent of three biracial JCPS students said there is a noticeable difference of consequences depending on whether a white student or a black student. “If it’s a white student, it’s ’well, they’re just kids.’ But if it’s a black student, there are more serious consequences.” 

This woman said she hopes these meetings will start conversations that need to be had. “This is supposed to be a school district that is all about 'no child left behind' and right now, I’m not seeing that.”

In the coming weeks, JCPS will continue to collect community members’ thoughts.

“We’re still going to continue, we’re going to meet with our district-wide staff, we have 1,478 employees full and part-time and we’re going to meet with our staff and ask them what they see as the school’s role.” 

Later this fall, JCPS will meet with all of its middle and high school students, and ask them what they see as the school’s role with regards to being stronger together and in regards to diversity. 

Linthacum also encourages anyone who was unable to attend one of the meetings to call his office to set up a meeting.