PICKERINGTON, Ohio (WCMH) — Parents who feel Pickerington school district is not listening to their needs are asking supporters to vote “no” on Tuesday’s levy.
Charles Newman, a community leader with the Black Parent’s Network, said there is a lack of equity when the Pickerington Local School District deals with their families.
Newman estimates they have 200 members in a group formed two months ago. He says that 46 percent of the school district’s population is now made of families of color.
“Several of our students have complained about incidences within our school district, and just within the last week, where our concern has really hit a point, where we feel they have totally tuned us out. We went and expressed our voice at a board meeting, and the Board of Education refused to listen to us,” Newman explained.
“They made an attempt to go into executive session and not listen to the voices of Black and brown families,” he continued. “It wasn’t until white allies stood up and pretty much demanded that they listened to our voices. That was followed by the recent incident of internal staff members who have continued to make posts on their public social media pages that were insensitive to Black and brown families in this community.”
Newman believes nothing has really changed after a situation last October when white staff member Ruth Stickel and Black staff member Damicka Bates infringed the same rules but received different levels of discipline.
Additionally, students performing in Hairspray at Pickerington High School were asked last week to remove a sign focused on police brutality.
“Our goal is not to hurt our schools, but to make our schools better for all children,” Newman said.
Crystal Davis said the district is hearing from the Citizens Advisory Committee members on Monday night at the board meeting, and hiring a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion officer is part of the plan’s recommendation.
Davis says the district has addressed the social worker who made one of the social media posts. PLSD released a statement that said:
“On Monday, April 26, Pickerington Schools placed Jessie Burr on administrative leave from her position as a school social worker while the District reviews complaints concerning her recent social media activity.
“Since this is a pending investigation into a personnel matter, our practice is to refrain from public comment at this time. We may issue a public statement after we have completed our review of the matter.”
The district has also hired a third-party consultant, Dr. Arianna Howard.
“We have our internal ‘P.R.I.D.E. Committee.’ Dr. Howard and the P.R.I.D.E. Committee both gave lengthy presentations about their work in moving the district forward during our last board meeting on April 19,” Davis said.
In regards to the theater production, Pickerington High School Central Principal Stacy Tennenbaum met on Monday with students about the sign, and said it was removed because it addressed police brutality, which is not a theme focused on in the musical. “All other student-made signs were part of the live performance because they coincided with the play’s main themes — racism, segregation, equity, and inclusion.”
On Monday, May 3, the Pickerington Black Parent’s Network plans to march peacefully from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. from Ridgeview Junior High to PLSD district office at 90 North East Street to demand “schools where all students matter.”