“What is it like to be the only African American students in the class when reading Huck Finn?” Principal John Mckinney said.
The first diversity inclusion committee panel discussion, organized by the Parent Teacher Student Association was held Jan. 29. The panel is made up of nine members consisting of current and former students, parents and community leaders ranging in age, gender and religion.
The members each had time to speak about diversity issues at East, good experiences and bad. The goal was to better educate the East staff and to prepare them to deal with situations that may make them uncomfortable.
East has an 8 percent hispanic and latino population, and just under 2 percent black. Mckinney organized this panel to help find ways to make the minorities feel safe, welcomed, appreciated and included.
“Principal Mckinney has been trying to give teachers more tools to prepare for the changing world that we have here,” social studies teacher David Muhammad said.
Muhammad explained that race is a tough issue for everybody to discuss. According to him, teachers may feel targeted if a student accuses them of discussing a sensitive subject in the wrong way – they may not realize the discussion is unintentionally making a student feel uncomfortable.
“If there [are] 100 people in a room and all of them look different than you, you are going to feel uncomfortable,” Mckinney said. “We recognize that. We don’t see it as a flaw, but as something needed to be fixed.”
The staff has identified an area for improvement regarding cultural differences to concentrate on: getting to know one another better. Mckinney feels that the stronger the relationships made, the more understanding people have of one another.
He stresses the fact that he wanted the students’ perspectives on different situations presented in learning environments and how they affects them. According to Mckinney, ages 14 through 18 are monumental in a child’s life and how shape how they view the world.
“We come here day after day, year after year,” Mckinney said. “Students are here for only four short years, so we want to make those years very meaningful and make sure we prepare students to be successful after they leave here.”