MMSD to re-examine zero tolerance policy regarding racial slurs

MADISON (WKOW) — The Madison school district announced Monday that it would be reviewing its policy regarding the use of racial slurs in school.

Board of Education president Gloria Reyes said they were trying to do good by creating the policy in the first place.

“We wanted to focus on not harming our children when we’re using these terms,” she told 27 News. “There were racial incidents that happened in our school and the district moved forward to implement this.”

Freedom Inc.’s Youth Director Bianca Gomez said the district should have considered how that policy would have impacted students of color. She said she believes the strict enforcement of the policy ignores the context of the situation and sometimes does more harm than good.

“The use of the zero tolerance policy was more harmful than the use of the n-word,” she said. “Black people are smart enough to decide what we want to do with that word and we don’t need people to put harmful policies in place that end up hurting us.”

Reyes said students of color will be heavily involved in the process of re-examining current policies, and potentially crafting new ones.

“We’ll also look at whether there’s a new policy that we have to frame and write to ensure and to stick by our value of working and ensuring we have an anti-racist school,” she said.

Reyes said they will work to understand the complexity of situations involving racial slurs and people of color.

“I think we can still move forward by centering the racial equity work and the anti-racism work in our school, while also establishing a protocol and understanding what the complexities are in these situations,” she said.

Tracey Russell has worked with teens for almost two decades, and supports West High School’s Black Student Union. She told 27 News that every situation will be different and complex when it comes to the use of the n-word, and that the district may need to take a more extensive look than they originally did in order to keep people from getting hurt.

She said there is now an opportunity for growth from the district.

“I have the expectation that the school board would set a precedent that the board would have teenagers at the board, that would speak to these policies,” she said. “As well as looking at the African American community and looking at our leaders within the community and invite them to the board when you’re making these policies and procedures so you can really understand and hear how it may affect our community.”

More at WKOW 27 News

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