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Parents hear about training after racist threats at Las Vegas school

Updated May 3, 2019 - 7:48 pm

The Anti-Defamation League invited parents to Arbor View High School on Thursday night to hear how the organization has led employee anti-bias training in the aftermath of racist threats, but a mother of one victim wished more people attended.

“There weren’t enough parents there to say this community cares,” Akiko Cooks said after the meeting, later adding that out of a school of 3,500 students, more than the roughly 100 parents the Principal Kevin McPartlin said he expected should have attended.

The Anti-Defamation League hosted the forum for parents of the school’s students to talk about employees’ anti-bias training held on Wednesday and Thursday. The plan was to tell parents what teachers, faculty and staff learned during two different two-hour training sessions, said Jolie Brislin, the Nevada regional director for the organization.

“We have to change the culture; we have to change the conversation,” Brislin said. “We need to bring the parents, the teachers, the administrators and the students into that in order to change the culture.”

The Clark County School District requested help from the Anti-Defamation League after two teen boys were arrested in connection with racist threats posted to Instagram in March.

The 15-year-old and 14-year-old boys were sentenced in April for their roles in the threats. The 15-year-old admitted to helping the 14-year-old boy, who created the Instagram account, write photo captions that referenced the 1999 Columbine school shooting and threatened to “cleanse” the school of black students. The captions were posted with candid photos of nine black students, and the account’s username included a racial slur.

Before the teens were sentenced, public outcry rose again after a school board meeting discussion of the racist threats, when Trustee Danielle Ford used the term “colored students” rather than “students of color.”

‘It’s a start’

Cooks, mother of one of the boys depicted in the Instagram posts, said she did not get a clear-enough picture on Thursday of what the Anti-Defamation League taught employees, in part because of the limited time and the format of the event, where parents were split into groups after a general question-and-answer session.

A group formed by Cooks and other victims’ mothers, called 1865, has demanded action from the school board in the aftermath of the threats, including anti-bias training for all employees.

“It’s a start,” she said about Thursday’s meeting. “We want to see follow-through.”

McPartlin said the training he went through this week centered on empathy.

“In general, the activities involve … reflecting on your own background and your beliefs and what you were taught, and then moving forward with some understanding of what other peoples’ backgrounds may be,” he said.

Empowering people

Brislin said she hoped the training would help encourage students, faculty members and parents to speak up whenever they see something racist or hateful occur.

“It’s being able to say that this isn’t appropriate,” she said. “It’s empowering people to speak up when they see an incident taking place. Because so often people say nothing when an incident takes place because they don’t know what to say.”

McPartlin said he wanted his school and the district to “take ownership” of the recent events, and for other schools in the valley to learn from what the Anti-Defamation League was teaching.

“We know this is not just an Arbor View issue, or a northwest issue,” he said.

Cooks said the school district shouldn’t expect her or the other mothers to let the issue go.

“I’m not going away; we are not going away,” she said. “There is a racist culture that has been building in this school district. It’s here. It’s been here, and now they have to change it.”

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newbergon Twitter.

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