A Wisconsin public school district is limiting discourse on social privilege after parents complained about a Martin Luther King Jr. day exercise about “white privilege.”
In a restriction on academic freedom, Oconomowoc Area School District in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, is limiting discussions on “white privilege” after a group of parents complained about a Martin Luther King Jr. day activism event. The school district decided that future events on the topic of privilege will not be permitted.
Amanda Hart, a lesbian mother of two biracial foster children, started a petition to demand that the district maintain the activism events.”I don’t know how you can have a discussion about race without also discussing (privilege) to give our students a complete picture,” Hart said.
“Even if you don’t agree with the concept of white privilege,” she said, “it’s part of helping students become critical thinkers.”
As of Thursday, over 2,100 people have signed Hart’s petition. The petition demands that the school district make sure that students and teachers are comfortable discussing issues of diversity and inclusion in the classroom.
The Oconomowoc School Board needs to know that as parents, community members, and concerned citizens we value diversity education. The School board needs to hear from parents and taxpayers in the Oconomowoc area especially. We need to assure that our teachers and principals feel safe allowing students to participate in their education and stand up for the values of diversity and inclusion. We can’t be the silent majority.
Oconomowoc Superintendent Roger Rindo explained that parents felt that the “privilege” discussions would be harmful to their children.
“Schools are a microcosm of their communities. And we had parents in our community who felt like the concept of privilege went a little far, particularly for some of our younger students,” Rindo said.
Shortly after the board decided to restrict such events, several board members resigned. School board president Donald Wiemer said that several board members specifically took issue with the topic of “white privilege” despite that they were okay with general conversations about diversity.
“We have poor people in Oconomowoc who are saying they’re not privileged … and people that say, ‘Don, we worked our butts off to have what we have,'” Wiemer said.