Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
October 21, 2000 - Issue 21

Schools Tackle Sterotypes
by Lynette Meachum Sun Staff

The district holds a "Strength in Our Diversity" in-service day.

A class session on stereotypes involved Amber Secord in exactly the wrong way this year.

Secord, a junior at North Kitsap High School, was the only American Indian in the classroom when the teacher displayed a cartoon about stereotypes and asked the class what other stereotypes there are.

"They started talking about casinos and welfare," she said. Secord, a Port Gamble S'Klallam, immediately felt singled out.

"I felt like I was there to defend every Native (American) in this world," she said.

On Friday, she was one voice on a panel of minority students, staff and parents who reminded North Kitsap School District staff that discrimination is a reality, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. The panel was a main element of the district's "Strength in Our Diversity" in-service day.

Raymond Pondelick, another panel member, said a racial incident occurred this week at Spectrum Alternative School.

Last Tuesday, Pondelick went into the bathroom at Spectrum and discovered the words, "---- Natives, what about my human rights?" scrawled on the wall. Nearly 20 percent of Spectrum's students are American Indian.

"I haven't been looking at people the same," Pondelick said in a separate interview. "I've been isolating myself toward all my Native American friends. It's made me really uncomfortable."

It's the first time he's had to deal with racism at Spectrum, a school that usually prides itself on its conflict-free atmosphere and its Human Rights Exchange program. And at this point, it doesn't look like the culprit is going to come forward or be found out, he said.

"I really don't know what to do," Pondelick said.

The school's students met in small groups and then all together to discuss the incident and how they think the school should handle it, Principal Chris Wendelyn said. Many students expressed their displeasure, and the consensus was that the group's censure would be more powerful than a finger-pointing effort, Wendelyn said.

"We need to respond powerfully as a community to say that this is a disgrace," Wendelyn said. "This is the example we can use to teach the person who wrote this on the wall."

Pondelick filed a racism incident report, a procedure the district is using to make it easier for students and staff to deal with such issues. A notebook with the district's policies on harassment and discrimination is going in each building, with a staff member trained to be a resource person on those topics, said Beth Schneidler, a member of the district's Equity Advisory Committee.

At Friday's panel, educational consultant Cathy Rose listed key elements of multicultural education for teachers. Classrooms need to eliminate the smallest biases in teaching perspective including the phrase "Westward Expansion," which was an expansion for whites, but more like an invasion for American Indians, she said.



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