Embracing Diversity

Embracing Diversity
Posted on 12/03/2014

Embracing Diversity

This week I was invited to participate in a community forum held at UW-Stout to discuss bias in our community, and to talk about what we can do to make Menomonie a safer and more inviting place for everyone. Unfortunately, there have recently been alleged examples where minority members from our community have been treated quite poorly. In one instance, a prominent member of our Hmong community was severely injured over a hunting dispute, while, in another instance, a minority student from UW-Stout was verbally assaulted and threatened after a traffic incident. It was very disturbing to learn about these types of conflict in a progressive community that has so much of which to be proud.

There are no good excuses for letting bias affect our behavior, and there continues to be too many occurrences in our country, state, and local community where we do not treat each other with enough dignity and respect. While diversity can sometimes make people uncomfortable or afraid, we need to remember that, as human beings, we are all much more similar than we are different. It is encouraging that there is collaboration between our local law enforcement, judicial system, university, school district, and community to offer an appropriate reaction to these recent situations, but we also need to be proactive in our efforts to keep situations like these from happening again. Education at school and in our homes is the key!

The mission of the Menomonie Area School District states that we will embrace the unique needs and use the strengths of our diverse community to prepare all students to become lifelong learners, caring individuals, and responsible citizens. We have much work to do toward accomplishing this mission, but we can already celebrate much progress in this area. Our teachers, principals, and support staff continue to do a wonderful job modeling and teaching appropriate behavior in our school district, and our Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) program has helped to provide a foundation of good behavior for so many of our students. Administration and staff at our schools continue to work hard to enforce policies and rules related to harassment and bullying, and our school district continues to look for ways to make our academic and co-curricular programming more inclusive.

Many of us at one time or another have witnessed or participated in inappropriate behavior based on bias. Some instances might have seemed small like an off-color joke that was shared between family or friends, while other, more visible examples, might have been more direct or may have occurred in a more public setting. Large or small, public or private, this type of biased behavior is not acceptable. It is a poor example for our children, and it continues a chain of conflict that has been passed down through generations. 

The good news is that we control our future! Menomonie is still a wonderful place to live, and most of our community members are very sensitive these issues. By continuing to provide our children with good role models and a good education, we can create an environment that is safer and more welcoming for everyone.

Should school stakeholders have any questions about our school district, I invite you to visit the Administrative Service Center on Pine Avenue or contact me at 715-232-1642. More information about our schools can be found on the school district website (www.sdmaonline.com) and on Twitter (www.twitter.com/sdmaonline).