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Experts: Racism exists in your school and teachers aren’t trained to handle it

Dec 27, 2017 by

SALT LAKE CITY — When Allison Martin read earlier this school year about five students from Weber High School taking turns yelling a racial slur in a video shared through social media, it brought back painful memories of an assembly gone wrong when she was a teacher at Alta High in 2011.

She recalled the public uproar when a student covered his head in what looked like a Ku Klux Klan hood, and how the school and district responded with apologies and training for select groups of educators and students.

“It’s incredibly disappointing and just super heartbreaking to know that it continues to happen, you know, in our day and in our country,” Martin said.

But, Martin, who is now an assistant vice principal at Northwest Middle School in Salt Lake City, is careful not to villainize students who often don’t understand the racial overtones of their antics or the damage done to those offended. She also has empathy for officials stunned by the embarrassing episodes and left scrambling to respond and restore the students’ and the community’s confidence.

“There are a lot of good-hearted educators out there trying to address things that they have no knowledge of how to address,” Martin said.

In response to what happened at Weber High School, Weber School District is searching for a tolerance training program to provide training to students and staff, according to district spokesman Lane Findlay. So far, they’ve formed a committee that has reached out to the University of Utah to inquire about possible programs.

But Martin, who was among those selected for training after the Alta High School incident and who sought a doctorate in educational leadership and policy with a focus on social justice in education because of her experience, and other experts say the training that school districts launch after a racial incident should not be one-time events, but ongoing instruction to students and educators to prevent — and not just respond to — racially tone-deaf gaffes and insults among students.

“It’s not enough to think that (racism) might happen,” Martin said. “Assume that it’s going to.”

continue: Experts: Racism exists in your school and teachers aren’t trained to handle it | Deseret News

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