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MCCSC board discusses racial bias after insensitive course materials surface



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The Monroe County Community School Corporation puts on a board meeting Tuesday night. The school board gave out awards to various students and teachers in the community and discussed concerns of insensitive class materials related to slavery. Mallory Smith Buy Photos

Community members continued discussion of racial bias Tuesday night at the Monroe County Community School Corporation board meeting after a parent raised concerns earlier this month of insensitive course materials related to slavery.

The materials, from a company called Studies Weekly, included a short narrative called “Cotton Pickin’ Singing” and a suggested role-playing activity where students could act in roles such as “slave” and “African slave driver.”

District spokesperson Andrew Clampitt said the district pulled the curriculum almost instantly once the issue was raised Feb. 10 and began a curriculum review for kindergarten through fifth grade. 

The district also had a public forum Monday to discuss the issue. 

“As a board, we want to apologize and thank you for making it a teaching moment,” school board President Kelly Smith said. 

The district officially severed ties with the Studies Weekly materials vendor Tuesday during the board meeting. Interim custom curriculum will be used for the rest of the school year, and a new vendor and materials will be used in the future.

However, Jennifer Crossley, the parent who first raised the issue, said action on racial bias cannot end there.

“Since we say we are a progressive town, we would love to see cultural bias training,” Crossley said. “We can do better."

Crossley said she doesn’t just want to see the training for staff. She also wants kids to receive instruction on racial bias and sensitivity, especially after a recent incident she heard about where a fight broke out on a bus after a student was called the N-word.

Board member Sue Wanzer said she would like to see more effort in recruiting people of color to teach and work in the schools, perhaps by creating an internal position specifically focused on recruiting such candidates. 

Board secretary Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer added that it’s important to fulfill the promise of public education: providing a system that works for all students. 

“I’m glad we have a community that’s holding us accountable,” Feuntes-Rohwer said.

In other business, the school board announced plans to send a signed banner to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to show support in the wake of a mass shooting there Feb. 14

The board also approved a clarified version of the district’s weapons policy, which states it is a felony to carry or store weapons at school functions or on school property for anyone other than a school resource officer or other certified police officer.

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