Powhatan School Board lays out proposed steps to address growing discrimination issues

Posted at 11:08 PM, Apr 16, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-17 07:50:30-04

POWHATAN COUNTY, Va. -- Dozens of passionate Powhatan community members showed up to a school board meeting Tuesday night to voice their concern regarding alleged discrimination in schools.

“We have almost seen no movement forward or any tangible action,” said a spokesperson representing the Powhatan NAACP chapter.

At last month's rescheduled school board meeting, hundreds of community members came out to support students and families who shared their experiences about the alleged discrimination they’ve faced.

People began speaking up about these types of issues at school board meetings after a photo circulated on social media in February which allegedly showed a Powhatan High School student with a racial slur written on her arm.

During public comment Tuesday night, the NAACP shared that since March, their organization has fielded feedback from families of color that shared students have faced learning loss due to continued peer harassment.

They also said they’ve had extensive meetings with the administration who they feel are not properly trained to respond to racial trauma.

Additionally, they claim that many students have been retaliated against inside and outside of the school because of their advocacy.

Other parents spoke during public comment sharing with the board that their students have continued to experience racial slurs over the last month.

“She told me there was no point in complaining because they aren’t going to do anything anyway. And that’s her mentality towards the treatment she is facing at the school,” shared one parent.

Many of the speakers during public comment continued to call on the school board to make policy changes to give harsher punishments for discrimination.

There were no discrimination policy changes on Tuesday evening's school board agenda.

Powhatan County Schools Superintendent Beth Teigen said since the March board meeting, the district has been working with the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities to establish a plan and timeline to address concerns.

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Dr. Beth Teigen

Teigen also said the organization met with school administration last week to host a dialogue on respect, understanding, and the impact of words.

They said this will be continued on all levels from staff to students, as their contract with VCIC lasts through the fall.

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“This is not easy change. No change that you want to maintain can be done quickly. You must invest. It requires planning and purposeful steps,” Teigen said.

School board members also responded to concerns. They said they hear student and family concerns and added they are unable to comment on how they are disciplining students.

“Racism is wrong on so many levels,” shared Mrs. Jeanne Wade.

Board members said they are currently looking at ways to change the district's student's rights and responsibilities.

They say work is currently being done and they want community members' feedback before the initial presentation of proposed edits at their upcoming school board meeting in May.

“It takes some time to do the job right and go through the proper procedures to make sure it is a strong policy for all of our children,” said Mrs. Vicki Hurt.

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