In 2016 a photo of a Confederate flag in the Gardner Edgerton High School Commons caused a controversy. A former student council president was blocked from @GEBlazers after he tweeted, “How can you tell black kids to get an education when they go and see this.”
At the time USD 231 officials declined comment, but the public information officer did say incidents involving individual students were handled appropriately.
Recently the problem of racial injustice has been spotlighted, both locally and nationally, since the death of George Floyd and black man in Minnesota, who died at the hands of police officers.
Locally, about 200 persons participated in a peaceful June 6 march against racial injustice which snaked from city hall to Moonlight Rd. and then returned.
Holly Snyder, one of the organizers, contacted USD 231 officials regarding a statement on Floyd’s death.
In the letter Snyder asks the district to create a policy where no racist paraphernalia, symbols or flags are allowed on school grounds. “No one should see a Confederate Flag fly on USD 231 ever again. If you do not act, your silence is permission for racist symbols to persist on USD 231 property. Take a stand,” she wrote.
Snyder also requested information on racial diversity statistics for students and staff within USD 231 be made public and for inclusion of all history, including black, be part of the curriculum.
She writes, “By third grade, the only black figure our children can name is Martin Luther King Jr. By the end of sixth grade, the black figures taught are mostly athletes and musicians. Notably absent are: Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Crispus Attucks, Sojourner Truth and Nat Turner. Whether a mistaken omission or intentional, our USD 231 students are not learning about key figures during SLAVERY. Also, a common theme is black parents are told to learn about black figures on their own time, thru books they must purchase themselves, because they are not available in the classroom or in the school library. I thought this should be brought to your attention.”
Information regarding district diversity or the inclusion of all minority history in the curriculum was not addressed in a response Snyder received from Pam Stranathan, superintendent.
However, Stranathan did say the school district takes harassment and discrimination policies very seriously and enforces them vigorously. “In essence, these are the guiding principles to which we expect everyone to adhere. Beyond these principles, we expect everyone to constantly be on the look-out for any conduct which violates this policy and to report it,” Stranathan wrote.
Snyder encourages area residents and students who believe they have been harassed or discriminated against to contact her.