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Student discusses racism with school board

Student discusses racism with school board

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ASHLAND – A local student and her mother discussed incidents of racism at Ashland-Greenwood Public Schools and asked the Board of Education Monday night to raise the bar and be more intentional about reaching the needs of students of color.

Dayna Wilson, a sophomore at Ashland-Greenwood High School, spoke at the board’s monthly meeting during the public communication portion of the meeting. She was accompanied by her mother, who also spoke. Because the issue was not on the agenda, board members and school officials did not take any action or respond to the presentation.

Alaina and Dan Wilson adopted Dayna and her little sister, Annie, from China when the girls were very young.

“I basically said racism is a prevalent issue in the Ashland-Greenwood school system,” Dayna Wilson said in a phone interview after the meeting.

The sophomore told the school board she has observed many acts of racism over the 11 years she has been a student of Ashland-Greenwood Public Schools – some aimed directly at her and some that were said or done to other students.

“If I hadn’t witnessed the aggression myself, then I watched it happen to others,” she said.

These incidents included hearing the “N word” said frequently to black students, Dayna Wilson said. She has also been the target of racist remarks, including taunts about COVID-19 in recent months.

All of these incidents were done so that they were not witnessed by teachers, administrators or other school staff members, she added.

The incidents started with hurtful comments when she was in kindergarten, Dayna Wilson said. She remembers hearing a black student told that slavery was something that should be brought back in third grade. As a freshman she tried to laugh off racist remarks, but it got to be exhausting, she added.

Although she reported incidents of racism each year she has been a student in the Ashland-Greenwood district, Dayna Wilson said she feels the school district has not done enough to make school safe for all students of color. By speaking directly to the school board, perhaps more will be done.

“I hope they take away that there shouldn’t be any reasons for racist behavior,” she said.

Even though she only has two years left in high school, Dayna Wilson wants to make a lasting impact for her sister, who is a third grader.

“I want to make it a better place for my sister to grow up in, because she’s also from China,” she said.

Alaina Wilson asked school district representatives to be more intentional when it comes to cultural awareness and to realize that there are resources they can utilize to be more culturally responsive.

She also suggested the district use opportunities like Martin Luther King Jr. Day to be more proactive when it comes to educating students about racism.

On Tuesday morning, Superintendent Jason Libal responded to the statements made by Dayna and Alaina Wilson.

“We appreciate the feedback and input,” he said. “We always look for ways to work with patrons, students and constituents and we look forward to that dialogue.”

In other action, the board approved hiring a new administrator and several teachers for the 2021-2022 school year.

Matt Flynn will succeed Randy Wiese as assistant principal/activities director. Wiese is retiring at the end of the current school year.

Flynn has been the district’s technology integration specialist for the last several years. He was also a middle school social studies teacher at Ashland-Greenwood in the early 2000s. He holds two masters degrees from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

The school board approved the hiring of Laura Reeder to teach high school Spanish and coach. Reeder has been teaching for the past four years at District 145 in Waverly.

Jordyn Botrell was hired as a middle school language arts teacher. A graduate of Wayne State College, she taught at Cedar Bluffs for the past three years.

Ashland-Greenwood alum Cole Washburn will teach middle school/high school physical education. Washburn has been an educator at Lincoln Public Schools since 2017.

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