DeWitt Schools making plans to tackle racism following incidents

Some students in DeWitt were caught and punished fro racist incidents after the election. Now the district is trying to come up with a plan to prevent the behavior.

Parents, teachers, and community members got the chance to talk to each other and the district Tuesday night about what should be done.

At times, the discussion got heated. People wanted to know exactly what happened and what the district did about it - but the meeting was designed to be a general discussion of race and discrimination in the community.

Superintendent John Deiter stood up about an hour and a half into the meeting and finally answered many questions. "It took a long time, but I think everybody that was here was glad to hear the superintendent speak and clarify what it was that occurred, what it was that he did, that the school did," community member Diana Rivera said. "But there were still a lot of questions that were left unanswered."

Rivera says she's friends with people whose children were targeted, and she hopes the district will make sure that students who have been the victims of racism or discrimination still feel welcome and accepted at school.

DeWitt High School English/Language Arts and Sociology teacher Jason Lafay says he thought the discussion was constructive, even if it got rocky at some points. He is excited to be a part of changing the culture at DeWitt schools. "Develop a plan and let's start executing it. I'm rearing to go, I've been reading books, I want to start a study group with teachers, I want to implement a curriculum, and also do extracurricular activities and really get it out into the community as a whole," Lafay said. He runs an extracurricular activity called DeWitt Creativity Group that encourages students to be creative and innovative through projects in the arts, STEM, and entrepreneurship. He says the group is purposefully open to all students to promote collaboration through diversity.

"It has to be a total community effort," Lafay said.

Deiter says he got a lot of feedback from parents at the meeting. "We heard a lot of emotion, some folks that were looking for a little more action, more input in the district to folks that were happy with the way things have been handled," the superintendent said.

Now, he's ready to move forward. "Where do we go from here? Obviously, we've had some issues, and it's time to make a plan to address those issues that's long-term and sustainable," he said.

The district has enforced it's zero tolerance policy on bullying, Deiter said, but now the superintendent wants to be proactive and educate students and parents to prevent things like this from happening at all.