If the first of three virtual conversations the Southington Public Schools' Coalition for Social Justice convened is any indication, local community members appear eager to discuss issues related to diversity and equity.
More than four dozen community members tuned into the first conversation last week. The discussion titled “Southington, Who Are We” took a look at the town's current racial and socio-economic makeup.
Upcoming events will delve into other topics. On Aug. 12, the subject is racial consciousness. The following discussion, on Aug. 19, will tackle white privilege.
Southington Youth Services Director Christina Simms, a coalition member, was one of the facilitators in the first conversation. Simms said its purpose was to give participants a “baseline” of the town's demographics.
“Where Southington has been and what our demographics look like now,” Simms said.
The discussion started with a look at how the town's demographics had changed.
In keeping with the present day, a portion of the conversation was centered on the perspective of current students, Simms explained.
“What the culture is and how welcome they feel,” she said.
A seventh grade student, who is member of the Sikh community, shared his perspective, Simms said. Then the conversation opened up among participants.
Erica Byrne — a coalition member, community activist and parent of a child in the school system — was among those moved by input from students.
“I’m hopeful that the adults who attended will reflect on how they can truly listen to our remarkable students of color who spoke their truth about their experiences feeling ‘othered’ in Southington,” Byrne said.
The coalition was formed in 2019, well before the death in late May of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, at the hands of police in Minneapolis. Floyd's death and other recent incidents have spurred protests nationwide, and locally, with increased calls for police accountability.
The coalition's charge has been to analyze various issues around diversity within the public school district, including disparate rates of discipline for minority students and bolstering the hiring of more minority educators.