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WATCH NOW: Cedar Falls Schools pressured to make changes over racism concerns
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WATCH NOW: Cedar Falls Schools pressured to make changes over racism concerns

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CEDAR FALLS — Pressure continues over concern with racism in Cedar Falls Community Schools, including from one activist who says a group of families will withdraw their children from the district if a list of demands isn’t met in the next month.

Six parents and community members spoke on the topic of racism Monday during the public comment portion of the Board of Education’s meeting.

Joyce Levingston made the list of five demands, telling The Courier later that she was representing “a group of parents and community members.” The Cedar Falls parent and organizer with Black Lives Matter didn’t say how many people are part of the group but insisted “it’s enough of us to make an impact in the school district.”

Several racist social media posts created by students surfaced in January and early February, causing many people to speak out about their concerns with the district.

“It is time we dismantle the systems that perpetuate the racial trauma experienced by our children and our students and, subsequently, our families,” Levingston said during Monday’s meeting.

Her demands included using the New York Times-created 1619 Project “or a fully inclusive curriculum” in class, developing a parent/guardian notification system for each report of racial discrimination, responding to such reports in the same way the district does to bullying, developing a system to track incidents and how they’re addressed, and contracting with licensed mental health specialists who have expertise in racial trauma to serve student needs.

Levingston called for “urgency and effort” in meeting the demands by March 22.

“We expect to see documentation of the district’s timeline and their action plan to fully implement,” she said. “We have a list of families that will otherwise be withdrawing from the Cedar Falls School District.”

When contacted by The Courier, Levingston said she was waiting for a response from Cedar Falls Schools before talking to the media. Concerning the threat to withdraw from district schools, she added, “hopefully ... we don’t have to get to that.”

Spokeswoman Janelle Darst released a response from the district Tuesday after being contacted by The Courier.

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“We very much appreciate the input and are reviewing each item. We will have a more comprehensive response soon. Initially, we believe some of the requests are being met within our equity committee’s action plans and outlined steps,” the statement said.

Cedar Falls Schools’ equity committee made a presentation during the meeting.

Another speaker, Sam Blatt, suggested not enough had been done by the committee, which recently unveiled a resource website.

“I urge the administration to meet the demands that were read earlier and go beyond just a website link to promote equity,” Blatt said.

Maggie Dvorak aimed her comments at Superintendent Andy Pattee.

“I would like to think as an educational leader that it would be a goal to differentiate and tailor your leadership skills so that you can meet and address and advocate for the needs of every individual student,” she said.

Andre Tate talked about the important role of the district since it is difficult to get social media companies to deal with racist posts by students.

“I was hoping that the schools would be willing to step in and do something right now to stop this from being an ongoing problem with the students within the Cedar Falls School District,” he said.

Superintendent Andy Pattee, responding to the speakers, acknowledged the challenges and the district’s effort to address them.

“Yes, we have some improvements; yes we have some work to do; yes, we have a pathway that we’re gong to continue to walk down,” he said.



Collection: Cedar Falls race relations stories

Collection: Cedar Falls race relations stories

Here's a recap of the most recent stories The Courier has done on race relations in Cedar Falls.

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Education Reporter

I cover local schools and higher education for The Courier, where I’ve been a reporter for the past two decades. I’m a Minnesota native and have previously worked for newspapers there and in Illinois.

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