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Tanque Verde district makes plans to combat racism in schools

KOLD News 10-10:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 10:26 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - After a special board meeting Wednesday night, Tanque Verde Unified School District is charting its course to better tackle the issue.

One of the plans includes reaching out to other districts and the Pima County Superintendent’s office for help.

This comes just a few weeks after KOLD News 13 launched an investigation, when a biracial family came forward with serious issues of racism at Emily Gray Junior High School.

Then other families joined in, saying it’s been going on for years, and at other schools too.

The Simmers family had wanted the district to change the school culture and make a tough public stance that racism is not tolerated.

It took them going public after a months long battle and a handful of our investigative reports to finally see real progress.

Emotional and stern pleas came from parents for the district to speed up it’s work to stamp out racism in schools.

The district laid out its plan to update its Student Code of Conduct, that includes a tougher public stance against racism, though it’s all still a work in progress.

And the district will bring this back to the board on April 27 for further consideration.

The board voted to contract with a diversity Specialist.

Board member Vieri Tenuta suggested a slew of solutions, including reaching out to education leaders.

Dustin Williams is the Pima County Superintendent, who Tenuta contacted.

“We have a whole professional development side that we have programs here that helps schools. If we don’t have the program in this office, we will build it or we will go find it,” Williams said.

Monica Wright, the Healthy and Safe Schools director, said schools can take punitive actions after racially charged actions or words, but it won’t get to the root of the problem.

“So what we want to do is make sure that we’re focusing on the why’s so that we can affect kids at that level versus being reactive, being proactive,” she said.

And their services don’t just extend to school and district staff. Parents can also reach out if they’re not being heard by school leaders.

“We would sit down more with a focus group and see exactly what it is that they want to have happen. And that sometimes might be a facilitated conversation with that district, charter or private school,” Williams said.

The board voted to also develop an Extracurricular Students Expectation Code. This after the Football Team is caught making highly offensive racial remarks on social media.

Athletic Director Gary Lewis shared his experience with racism, delivering a powerful message that struck a deep cord, after handing over a baton to the board president.

“Let us do the work, let us do it now. Please don’t drop the baton. Thank you for your time,” he said.

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