Motivational seminar for Hamilton County teachers stirs debate
UPDATE: Hamilton County teachers from Opportunity Zone schools, sat through a presentation Friday that sparked controversy across the district.
"It really hurts my heart that we have gone down this road," District 1 school board member Rhonda Thurman told Channel 3.
Slides titled "White Privilege" and "Racism" were presented to teachers across the district by Robert Jackson-- a former N-F-L player turned educator.
"The teachers deserve better than this," said Thurman.
Thurman says she was emotional when she saw the photos on social media.
"I'm very angry that we are pitting races against each other," Thurman said.
One of the bullet points on the 'White Privilege' slide says "(whites are) less likely to be followed, interrogated, or searched by law enforcement."
"We are supposed to judge people by the content of their character not the color of their skin, and that is exactly what is happening here," added Thurman.
Another 'Racism' slide says "People of color cannot be racist because they lack the institutional power to adversely affect white lives."
"That is just wrong. It's wrong on every level and you can't make it right," Thurman said.
The school district responded to the outcry on social media saying the slides were taken out of context.
"People see a term and they have their own conceptions and misinterpretations or their interpretations of it," said Hamilton County schools spokesperson Tim Hensley. Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson was not available for comment.
Hensley says despite what the slides read, the speaker was trying to show different perceptions.
"These were connotations that are given to a term that he was going through that different people have," added Hensley.
Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd weighed in on Twitter saying Dr. Johnson should be present in front of commissioners next Wednesday to explain the reason for Jackson's presentation.
Boyd goes on to say quote, "no excuses."
"We are graduating kids who can't read in high school and this is what you waste the teacher's time doing teaching them this nonsense? This is crazy," Thurman told Channel 3.
Hensley says in the future the school system will "put additional safeguards in place for external presenters to ensure there is less potential of misinterpretation of content."
PREVIOUS STORY: An in-service motivational presentation to teachers Friday has stirred up a debate. Some are saying the message was racist and inappropriate.
Patrick Hampton posted photos of slides featuring bullet points of "White Privilege" commenting, "This is what Hamilton County employees and teachers had to sit through."
Hamilton County teachers from the twelve Opportunity Zone schools sat through the presentation Friday and according to Facebook posts, some said the content made them feel uncomfortable. The Opportunity Zone includes schools that have been considered low performing, according to state testing scores. The in-service event is called the Urban Institute, and was held at Bayside Baptist Church, which occasionally hosts school district employee meetings.
The speaker was Robert Jackson, a longtime Indiana educator. According to his website, Jackson "has delivered 100’s of presentations and has become an expert in teaching cultural diversity, restorative practices, socio emotional learning, working with students who have experienced trauma and how to educate Black and Latino males. His goal is to teach educators and administrators how to use their power more effectively to Educate, Activate and Motivate all Students to be Successes."
According to Jackson's "White privilege" slide, "white people are less likely to be followed, interrogated or searched by law enforcement; their skin tone will not affect their credit or financial responsibility; when accused of a crime, white people are portrayed as good people; and they don't lose opportunities when mistakes are made." The audience was made up of teachers of various ethnic backgrounds. Most of the teachers contacted by Eyewitness News who were critical of the presentation did not want to go public with their opinions, fearing retribution from their supervisors. Several others who approved of the content referred to Jackson's program as "inspiring" and "good information, especially for new teachers."
Jackson's website can be found here: http://www.robertjacksonmotivates.com/
Hamilton County District 8 Commissioner Tim Boyd tweeted, "Superintendent should be present in front of the Commissioners next Wednesday morning to explain this to us in person. No excuses. I will be anxiously waiting for Dr Johnson’s public explanation."
Spokesperson Tim Hensley with Hamilton County Schools tells Channel 3, that the slides were just misinterpreted. In a statement, Hensley said, "Hamilton County Schools regrets that there have been misinterpretations of a presentation today to Opportunity Zone Learning Community teachers. The presentation was actually about how adverse childhood experiences can impact behavior in the classroom and methods to have effective classroom management.
Slides from a presentation by guest speaker Robert Jackson, a former NFL player and teacher, given today to teachers at the annual Urban Education Institute have been taken out of context and misrepresented in Facebook posts. The slides are being misrepresented as a presentation on white privilege. For the slides in question, the speaker was reviewing terms that can impact perception and definitions attached to the terms when the slides were used. White Privilege was one of several terms on slides during the short part of the presentation.
The district will put additional safeguards in place for external presenters to ensure there is less potential of misinterpretation of the content shared in the future."