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Alumni push for anti-racism reform in West Lafayette schools

Posted at 10:55 PM, Jun 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-18 22:55:27-04

WEST LAFAYETTE — Alumni are calling on their former school district to create anti-racism reform in schools.

On Wednesday, a group of more than 1,400 alumni from West Lafayette schools sent the superintendent a letter calling for sweeping reforms when it comes to racial inequality in the classroom.

"I had a kindergarten teacher tell my mom that I behaved better when my hair was braided and not woolly," Becca Mimms, a West Lafayette alumna, said. "Just a lot of microaggressions. You talk white, you sound white. I think we all knew it was happening, there just weren't enough of us people of color and people of different races to sit down and say, 'Hey, this is not appropriate.'"

"One thing you get as a black student is your intelligence is questioned a lot," Maurice Woodard, a West Lafayette alumnus, said.

Just as the high school is under construction right now, some alumni from West Lafayette hope the district does some rebuilding of its own.

"Teaching the actual history of America and the way it deals with race and how racism is a part of that is something that could really change generations in the future," Woodard said.

Among their requests are adopting a black and people of color curriculum, employing more diverse educators and administrators.

"The easiest one is diversity training," Mimms said. "You guys do enough in-service trainings I think you can include a couple hours on anti-racism and anti-bias."

Plus, they want to see the school's contract with the West Lafayette Police Department ended.

"Police officers do not belong in schools. They aren't trained to work with children," Woodard said. "And that often leads to more trouble for black children or children of color because they are there just kind of policing their bodies instead of being actual help for the school."

"Everyone deserves the right to education regardless of your skin color and they deserve to be able to come to school and feel like they matter and are wanted to be there," Mimms said.

The group said it won't just make students of color feel more accepted but allow other students to be more accepting moving forward.

"If we make a change here, there could be changes in every other school district," Mimms said.

The West Lafayette Community Schools Board of Trustees issued the following statement:

The West Lafayette Community School Corporation has zero tolerance for racism and racial discrimination. It is the duty of the Board of School Trustees to ensure that our policies reflect this belief in every aspect of student life.

We are committed to a well-rounded education for all and are proud of the opportunities that West Lafayette Schools affords its students. We also believe a climate that fosters constant improvement should work in concert with our ability to listen to the needs of all of our students.

In Indianapolis, officials with Indianapolis Public Schools said the district has been working on anti-racism efforts for many years. More than 70 percent of the district's students are black and brown and school officials said racial equity is the top priority. Numerous initiatives have been implemented through the Office for Racial Equity, including a series of virtual community town halls that are discussing race in and out of the classroom. The next conversation is June 26 at noon and is called, "Let's Talk: A Conversation about Race in the Classroom."