NewsEducation / July 10, 2020

Indianapolis Virtual Series On Race Wraps Up With Focus On Straight Talk With Children

IPS superintendent Aleesia Johnson, Chief Communications and Engagement Officer Kristian Stricklen, School Board Commissioner Taria Slack, Director of IPS Racial Equity Office Dr. Patricia Payne, and district racial equity team member Sarah Hutchinson talked live on Zoom Friday.

IPS superintendent Aleesia Johnson, Chief Communications and Engagement Officer Kristian Stricklen, School Board Commissioner Taria Slack, Director of IPS Racial Equity Office Dr. Patricia Payne, and district racial equity team member Sarah Hutchinson talked live on Zoom Friday.

Indianapolis Public Schools leaders hosted a virtual discussion Friday on how to talk to children about race. This was the district’s third and final public event tackling race.

The online discussion started with IPS chief communications and engagement officer Kristian Stricklen referencing George Floyd's death in Minneapolis six weeks ago, and the ways children are seeing and interpreting the public outcry since.

Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed during an arrest after allegedly using a counterfeit bill.

IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said it’s important to talk about race because data shows Black children are being left behind.

“Are Black people treated and valued as brilliant human beings? Are my children seen for the full potential that they have when they go into the schoolhouse everyday?” Johnson said. “Based on data, the answer to that question in IPS, in Indiana, and across the country is no.”

The panelists noted the importance of normalizing discussions of race for all children, so that the subject isn’t stigmatized. IPS board commissioner Taria Slack said Black parents don’t have the luxury of avoiding discussing race with their children.

“Unfortunately, my husband and I have had to have dialogue with our children for many years now -- not just within recent events that have transpired on Memorial Day,” Slack said. “But we live in a society where people of color constantly have to affirm and justify their humanity.”

Sarah Hutchison, a member of IPS’ racial equity team, said this is why it’s important for white families to have discussions on race with their children.

Johnson said the district’s new racial equity policy will foster more frank conversations in schools.

This story was produced by Side Effects Public Media. Carter Barrett is a reporter at WFYI. Follow her on Twitter @carter_barrett.

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