Rolandria Hanson shared personal experiences of racism within the district with members of the Marble Falls Independent School District Board of Trustees during a Jan. 18 meeting. YouTube Live screen capture
Parents are asking the Marble Falls Independent School District to take action to minimize racist behavior experienced by Black students and staff within the district. Three parents addressed the issue during a Jan. 18 school board meeting.
“This generation has a right to be educated from the moment they walk in school doors on positive race relations, to embrace our differences, and eradicate all forms of hate and biases,” parent Rolandria Hanson explained during the public comments portion of the meeting.
Hanson has been a resident for 10 years. In addition to sending three of her children to district campuses, she previously worked as a teacher within the district but left last year after accepting a position elsewhere.
During her allotted three minutes of speaking time, Hanson outlined racist behavior experienced by her son, who is currently attending middle school. Examples included being called derogatory terms, being pushed, and experiencing other forms of physical and verbal bullying from students while at school.
“The problem is that students are being subjected to racial discrimination by the use of language that is culturally insensitive and (being) bullied solely on the color of their skin,” Hanson said.
She was joined at the meeting by longtime resident and district parent Calvin Richard and area newcomer Peggy St. Martin. Both parents echoed Hanson’s concerns and experiences during the meeting.
St. Martin said she witnessed and experienced discriminatory behavior since moving to the community with her family three months ago. She has four children enrolled in the district, two of whom are biracial.
“We desperately need school settings where people of all backgrounds and views can engage and create change together,” she said.
“I don’t want people to not see color,” he explained. “I want you to see the Christ in me first and then a Black man from New Orleans because there’s a story there. It tells the story of who I am and what I am about.”
Following that meeting, Hanson met with district administration to further the discussion. According to both Superintendent Chris Allen and board President Kevin Naumann, district administration and staff have engaged in ongoing discussions about racial and cultural sensitivity since then. Hanson, however, was unaware of these conversations.
The district also has programs in place to raise awareness of discrimination and racial inequities, he said.
“We have our SEL program, which helps teach children the importance of treating each other with dignity and respect, and we have an elementary school piloting a cultural awareness initiative,” Allen explained.
Still, Hanson believes more opportunities exist for the district to show support to minority students, staff, and residents.
“I think that the leadership in the district needs to have a stronger voice that says we do not tolerate hate of any form, we do not tolerate discrimination against minorities, and that we welcome our African American students as well as all ethnicities and cultures,” Hanson said in an interview with DailyTrib.com. “I think that message is not being shared or loud enough at all.”
To assist in facilitating concrete change, Hanson wrote a list of both short- and long-term actions, which she will deliver to each school board member for review.
Short-term goals on the list include providing campuses with diversity posters, increasing the number of books featuring minority characters within district libraries, and including diversity training in mandatory professional development required of district employees.
Long-term goals listed were implementing diversity programs, inviting keynote speakers to provide talks on multicultural education, and creating a council of educators, board members, and students to ensure growth and monitor the implementation of such programs and practices.
During the Jan. 18 meeting, Naumann voiced his support of hosting a listening session in which school administrators and parents could begin identifying issues and problem-solving tactics. He asked district administrators to begin planning meetings that would include the attending parents and other community stakeholders.
“I think that what could happen, what might be a first start, is that we schedule a meeting, a listening session,” he said. “There is some that’s ignorance, there is some that’s deliberate, and there is some that’s just people being dumb. I think we have an opportunity to engage in a productive dialogue that is helpful in terms of steering our culture because that’s really what we’re talking about.”
Naumann said he expects an initial meeting to be held within a month of the Jan. 18 meeting. Both he and Hanson expressed individual desires to include diverse representation spanning all ethnicities on the proposed council.
“We’re talking about inclusion and all ethnicities and cultures,” Hanson said. “I think that all cultures that have a common goal should be invited. That common goal should be to eradicate hate, racism, and any forms of discrimination within the district. I think all people should have a voice.”