SOUTHINGTON — Dozens of residents, students and parents attended a Board of Education meeting Thursday night and called on school leaders to address racial discrimination and bullying.
Many mentioned a video that circulated online last month in which a Southington High School student threatened black students.
Parents and students, many of them minorities, said they face discrimination, including unequal discipline to name-calling. While the video drew attention, they said it’s been an issue for years.
“We have been dealing with this for years,” said Lauren Johns. She has a child in kindergarten who feels “ashamed to be brown.”
Tim Robinson, a Southington High School student, said there’s little information on punishment.
“We want to feel safe, we want to know that disciplinary action has been taken,” he said.
Brian Goralski, board chairman, said student discipline won’t be released due to state and federal privacy laws. He feels the problem is larger than the school board or district.
“We appreciate, especially the students, sharing their experiences at the high school,” Goralski said.
“Despite not feeling heard, I assure you, you were heard this evening.”
Representatives from the Bristol and New Britain chapters of the NAACP were present at Thursday’s meeting.
Dorie Conlon Perugini presented five recommendations, including teacher training, increasing the racial diversity of staff and designing a diverse curriculum.
Cheryl Hilton developed the recommendations but wanted Perugini to present them since she didn’t believe the board would listen to “someone brown” like herself, she said.
Hilton also questioned why the board “looks exactly the way it looks.”
Patricia Queen, a board member, encouraged anyone to run for the school board and said she also wanted to diversify the panel.
Bob Brown, a board member and former high school teacher, said speakers had brought forward “terrific ideas” and that the district can do more to address racism.
Lisa Cammuso, a board member, said her immigrant parents faced discrimination and had taught her “in the eyes of God, everyone is equal.”
That message, although “not the God part necessarily,” should be something taught to students, she said.
Perugini, a member of Southington Women for Progress, invited the board to a community conversation about “colorblindness.”