Residents express concern over increase in anti-immigrant, Hispanic bullying incidents
By Eliza Mohler, Staff Writer, Kennett Times
KENNETT SQUARE – Race relations and student bullying were at the forefront of Monday night’s meeting of the Kennett Consolidated School Board, as members of the community spoke to the board to regarding the recent problems of bullying within the district.
Francisco Cortes, a youth program manager and Kennett High School alumnus who resides in the district, addressed the board first, saying that he was asked by other members of the local Latino community to speak regarding recent incidents of anti-immigrant and anti-Latino bullying in the district.
“The reality is that the political climate affects our students’ educational environment,” he said. “When we have students at lunch tables making jokes about walls being built or kids being asked if their parents are drug dealers, we need the school to intervene but also take initiative to address the school culture. The reality is that KCSD cannot fix every social issue that marginalized youth face, but you can work to support youth in this capacity.”
Cortes then asked the board to acknowledge the hostility that is happening in the schools, and to commit to working towards resolving the issues through implementing initiatives for best practices.
Board President Kendra LaCosta responded to Cortes, saying that the district is aware of the issue and takes the problem of bullying seriously.
“We don’t want anyone to be marginalized, and we encourage people in the community to come forward,” she said. “I want us to work with any child who is being bullied.”
LaCosta also noted that all adults all have a responsibility to teach kids how to be respectful. After additional comments from a parent of a current elementary school student and a parent of Kennett High School alumni, the board agreed that they would look into implementing additional measures to prevent bullying in the schools.
Alisa Jones, President and CEO of La Comunidad Hispana, spoke briefly and offered the organization’s support to the district as they work on ways to resolve bullying. Jones also noted the fear that many Latino students are currently facing in light of the current political climate.
“Kids are afraid of going to school and that mom and dad won’t be home, ever,” she said.
In other news, members of the Student Council at Kennett High School announced the results of the annual Mini-THON, which was held on February 24. They raised $46,000, which is approximately $20,000 more than was raised in the previous year. Proceeds from this fundraiser will go to support the fight against pediatric cancer.
The board approved two new clubs at Kennett High School: the Finance Club and Kennett Conservatives. The purpose of the Finance Club is to promote financial literacy and to generate student interest in investing. The Kennett Conservatives group is intended to be a forum where politically conservative students can gather to discuss their views, and they will be associated with the Teenage Republicans organization. The students who presented the proposal for the Kennett Conservatives also expressed an interest in working with veterans groups, including a possible fundraiser with the Disabled American Veterans Program.
A robotics team competition trip to St. Louis in May was approved by the board, as was a proposed March 22-29, 2018 trip to Spain for any interested students who are enrolled in Spanish classes at the high school. Superintendent Barry Tomasetti introduced the slate of 2017 summer school and summer academy activities for elementary, middle school, and high school students, including STEM camp, remedial classes, and make-up classes. The board approved all of the proposed activities.
The meeting closed with a review of the upcoming calendar of events, including the spring musical “The Drowsy Chaperone”, which will be performed at Kennett High School on March 16-18.