Puyallup schools develop diversity office - Reader questions
why ten-year-olds are wearing police-like vests and running interference
for the 'implementation' of 'tolerance for all' policies
Szymanski; The News Tribune
At Tacoma's Arlington Elementary School, students trained to referee
arguments help stop fights during recess.
At Foss High School, members of the Gay/Straight Alliance gathered
signatures in the recent Tacoma campaign to uphold gay rights. They
testified in favor of those rights before the City Council.
In both cases, the students said they were encouraged by the Equity
and Diversity Affairs office the Tacoma School District established
in the late 1960s.
"We foster and encourage these activities at the building level,"
said Marilyn Walton, who heads the district's office. "When it
comes to various cultural issues, we go beyond an open-door policy
to a no-door policy. Sometimes, the 'open door' can just be a crack."
Next year, Puyallup schools will open a Diversity Affairs office they
agreed to establish as a result of a September settlement in a 2-year-old
racial discrimination lawsuit.
As Puyallup schools search for a diversity affairs director, they
can draw on more than 30 years' experience from Tacoma's equity and
Puyallup school officials are not clear how much their diversity affairs
office will resemble Tacoma's, which evolved from an affirmative action
office formed to recruit minority staff members.
"We have a unique set of conditions, and the office is not yet
organized," said Tony Apostle, Puyallup's director of administrative
services. "In the end, our office may or may not compare with
Tacoma's office investigates about 200 complaints of racial discrimination,
sexual harassment, and gender equity and conducts cultural diversity
and sexual harassment seminars for hundreds of students and staff
members every year.
The seminars promote an atmosphere of acceptance, and encourage students
to express their individual concerns and beliefs, said Pat O'Neal,
Foss' Gay/Straight Alliance adviser.
"The office makes it clear it will support students," O'Neal
said. "It is very much the cause of an open atmosphere."
If Tacoma is an indication, Puyallup's first diversity affairs director
will be busy. Walton said she fields a couple of complaints a day
from the district's 32,000 students and nearly 5,000 employees. Puyallup
has about 20,000 students.
"People forget that we're bigger than some cities," Walton
Since taking over the office in 1989, Walton has found that diversity
is broader than race, though race prompted Puyallup to organize its
"Race often can be a factor in a dispute, but it isn't always
the issue," Walton said.
She recalled one case in which a teacher and an aide of different
races did not get along in class. After handling their complaint,
Walton found that the aide felt inferior to the teacher because she
had less formal education and didn't feel as smart. Ethnic heritage,
Walton said, was not the source of their conflict.
"It was not a matter of race, but class- ism," Walton said.
Race accounted for the fewest number of complaints in the Tacoma School
District last year. Of 204 cases, 15, or 7 percent, had to do with
race. Sexual harassment accounted for 130 cases; gender issues accounted
for 59 cases.
Puyallup is conducting a national search this month for its diversity
affairs director. Interviews will follow next month with the aim of
hiring a director before the end of the year. The district also has
hired a Portland agency to review its policies relating to harassment,
discrimination and gender equity.
Puyallup's lawsuit grew out of a 1997 complaint to federal civil rights
officials. Black families who sued said the school district created
a racially hostile environment where students endured racial slurs,
jokes and graffiti, racial stereotyping, unfair treatment by teachers
and administrators, and threats of violence.
In its settlement with plaintiffs in September, Puyallup agreed to
establish a process to respond quickly to harassment and discrimination
complaints. The job description for the diversity affairs director
calls for keeping records to monitor and analyze complaints by parents,
staff and students. The director will track academic achievement of
students by gender and cultural background, and serve as the district's
consultant in textbook purchasing, recruiting, discipline and professional
Apostle called his district's diversity office "an opportunity
to learn and deepen our commitment to diversity. We will come to learn
there is no single, easy answer to the complex pressures our children
and youth are experiencing."
Walton and her staff of four try to resolve complaints within 30 days.
"The complaints always start hysterically," she said. "Often,
we have to ask for an extension to resolve the issue."
As important as the record-keeping and mediation are the student programs
that have resulted from the Tacoma office's activities, Walton said.
At Point Defiance Elementary School, student mediators clad in green
vests have reduced disciplinary referrals to the office, said Principal
Olga Lay. For 10 years, Foss High School psychologist Carol Coar monitored
The Breakfast Club, a multiracial group of Foss students who met and
talked once a week to learn about their similarities. They named their
group after the 1985 movie in which five high school students in Saturday
detention discovered they had more in common than they thought.
"They talked about their heritage and did annual assemblies,"
Coar said of the student club. "It built up an awareness of working
Students said they value the support they receive from Walton's office.
Cammy Delaney, 10, is one of Arlington's three dozen "conflict
managers," who wear blue mesh vests during recess with "CM"
in white letters. They carry report forms attached to clipboards and
record who gets into a disagreement, what caused it, and whether the
argument was resolved. If the students refuse to cooperate with her,
they become subject to discipline by school officials.
"We see arguments on the playground," Delaney said. "We
ask students to think about what would happen to them if we didn't
try to help. Usually, that changes their minds about fighting."
At Foss, sophomore Adam Flores was active in the campaign to maintain
a gay rights law, and helped get signatures from 300 Foss students
supporting the law, presenting them to the City Council.
Apostle said Puyallup already has some student programs that reflect
diversity, including Gay/Straight alliances and sporadic conflict
Apostle believes the Diversity Affairs office will improve Puyallup
"The office will be responsible for policies designed to eliminate
harassment of any kind where it may exist," he said.
"As a school district, we must be respectful to work with people
who previously may have been shut out."
Jim Szymanski: 253-597-8653
Letter to the Editor: Why are ten-year-olds wearing police-like
vests and running interference for the 'implementation' of 'tolerance
for all' policies?
Does Washington State still have laws against child labor? Why are
ten-year-olds wearing policelike vests and running interference for
the 'implementation' of 'tolerance for all' policies at this 'school?'
'Higher Order Thinking Skills' -- HOTS -- are anything BUT, and the
of your paper should also read: What Parents Need to Know About Conflict
Resolution and HOTS [Higher Order Thinking Skills]
http://www.icehouse.net/lmstuter/er008.htm that they might see what's
with the picture painted in the referenced article.
A look at the Education and Consensus buttons at
www.PropertyRightsResearch.org might be helpful, too.
Miss Julie Kay Smithson
213 Thorn Locust Lane
London, OH 43140-8844
Dedicated to property rights, resource providers, generational land
consumers and freedom.