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To the Editor,

It was disappointing to me to hear John Wright and Andrea Groth of the USD 415 School Board make a motion to disband the Diversity Council in our school system. It seems that the squeaky wheels are potentially getting the grease to the detriment of our students, our educators, and the quality of our school system. His argument is that the Diversity Council was created to stop bullying and doesn’t seem to have the intended effect. I believe it can be impactful in that goal, but needs to be paired with other district initiatives, such as more clear and consistent discipline policies, if the goal is to see more rapid change. To say that it “did not work” is a short-sighted and unrealistic evaluation of a program that began just before the pandemic and has never had the opportunity to provide consistent programming, participation, and support.

What will be gained by deliberately stifling knowledge and understanding of diverse perspectives and experiences? Will our students be more successful in an increasingly diverse nation and workforce? Will they have better critical thinking capabilities when confronted with the vast amounts of conflicting information available every day? Or will it simply appease the noisy masses who are threatened by a world where their voice is not the only viewpoint considered, and allow the Board to go on with other needed business? Are we willing to sacrifice necessary growth for comfort and convenience in Hiawatha?

It is not favoritism to allow historically marginalized people a seat at the table and an opportunity to have their experiences shared. It is not oppression of currently dominant voices to make space for representation of other experiences. It is an essential environment to create true empathy for each other. Over and over, we see that people act in ways that are hurtful, both intentionally and unintentionally, until they experience something personally and can finally see another side. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to teach that skill without having to experience harm to gain it? I believe the Diversity Council is a positive step in achieving that goal.

I believe that Hiawatha is a community that values people. It is time to step up and let our Board Members know that we want our children to be taught to value all people and to truly see the unique experiences that create us. It’s time to squeak.

Shayna Leahy, Hiawatha

Member of Brown

County United

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