GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – A community-based group, which has been advocating for human rights in Mesa County, met with board members of School Distrit 51 in an effort to create positive change.
Organizers with Right and Wrong, or RAW for short, met privately with the board of D51 Tuesday morning, and then peacefully marched to the public board meeting to voice concerns on the record.
“I kind of want to have a discussion with you guys today about respect,” said Demetrius Davis in his opening statement to the board.
Davis is an organizer with RAW, who works at a local after-school program for kids and is currently getting a degree in education.
“All this oppression and all this racism and homophobia, we just can’t stand for it anymore and we won’t,” said Davis.
The group, a new anti-racist coalition, has been working with District 51 to adjust some alarming issues.
“Mrs. Sirko has been very willing to work with us,” said Davis.
“I have not heard things that seem to me way out of line, everybody wants to feel respected and appreciated for who they are and what they bring to the table and so certainly that would be something that we want to accommodate,” said Diana Sirko, Superintendent of School District 51.
The group asked the district to take action on two specific issues.
“One, we want to do a co-op program for African Studies, especially during Black History Month, which is February each year,” said Davis.
According to Davis, RAW would like that program to be led by black men, women and students within the community.
“We feel like that’s important for them to have, not only that proper representation in the schools, but to be able to learn about their history in school as well,” said RAW organizer Janai Woods.
“They would like to make sure that those viewpoints are accurately presented to students and I felt like that’s a reasonable piece,” said Sirko.
The second request involves a more permanent committee forming on each campus within the district.
“We want to integrate a task force within each school, even the elementary schools, that addresses racism and combats racism,” said Davis.
Those teams would ideally consist of two to three students, one or two parents, a counselor, the principal and two to three teachers.
“Another thing we got addressed this morning was banning the confederate flag all across the school district,” said Davis.
An idea Diana says presents an interesting issue.
“Do your freedom of speech rights supersede someone else’s right to a productive environment where they don’t feel distracted in their learning,” said Sirko, “That’s an idea or a concept that we really need to look at and say, ‘is this contributing to our mission for students or is it subtracting from it?'”
RAW organizers said issues surrounding the confederate flag have been concentrated at Central High School and Grand Junction High School.
“That’s going to be something we’re going to work with, with those respective principles to address at their schools and to take seriously,” said Davis.
Racial slurs were another area of concern for RAW.
“Kids shouldn’t be using that word, especially the n-word,” said Davis.
RAW is asking the school district to teach lessons that combat that type of behavior and rhetoric.
“Targeting the younger generation so we’re able to reform that systemic racism that’s been rooted into the school system,” said Woods.
And the school board seems to be listening. According to Woods, the board agreed to move forward with all of the group’s terms.
“We need to make sure that each of our schools is a friendly and open place for students where they feel safe and protected,” said Sirko.
If you’re interested in learning more about RAW and its upcoming community gatherings, click here to visit its Facebook Page.
If you’d like to contact School District 51 or attend one of the board meetings, click here for more information.