Whitewater Schools: Highest Reported Discrimination and Harassment in the Area

Update: 1.31.20 — The story is now back online.  The reported data are the same. It is, as a commenter at FW notes, only one story. In this way, it’s also an invitation to others to explore the data more inquisitively.

Update: 1.27.20 — This story is no longer on the Daily Union website. Removing a story without an explanation is, needless to say, a substandard editorial practice. One can be sure the issue is worth pursuing. Some broken links to it, however, remain.

One reads, from Henry Redman in ‘ON THEIR WATCH’ (‘214 reports of discrimination and harassment in area schools over last five years, documents show’), that of eight Jefferson County school districts “Whitewater, with its 69 reports over five years from a student population of nearly 2,000 students, had the highest rate at 3.6 reports per 100 students.” (Emphasis added.)

Indeed, Whitewater had 32% of all reported area incidents.

Redman quotes education consultant Kate McCoy on the consequences of discrimination and harassment:

Some districts received more complaints than others and some didn’t receive any complaints at all. But many or none, the numbers raise questions about the safety and security of the most vulnerable students in Jefferson County schools.

Does a high number of reports mean that school isn’t protecting its students? Does not having any reports mean the district hasn’t fostered an environment in which students feel comfortable coming forward with complaints?

Whatever conclusions can be drawn from the numbers, the impact of even one incident of harassment or discrimination is not in dispute. Kate McCoy, an education consultant who works with the DPI’s prevention and wellness team, said students can internalize the harassment and start to believe what’s being said — which can have widespread ramifications.

“Any individual is going to be different, of course, but what we know is if it isn’t addressed and it’s persistent, it can undermine learning and lead to students getting less out of education,” McCoy said. “It can take up space in a student’s head; it’s harder to learn when you’re feeling harassed, unsafe. A student is less likely to feel like they belong, less engaged, more likely to avoid things. Less likely to engage in positive things such as sports and extracurriculars and participating in class. Might lead them to act out as a behavioral issue. Over time, it can impact students a lot.”

All of those impacts, whether immediate or delayed, change educational outcomes, according to McCoy.

One need offer no explanation for these numbers to know that they represent distress experienced, and that in absolute and relative terms, they are far too high.

Addendum: The danger here is that Old Whitewater – with a distorted culture of boosterism that accentuates the positive regardless of actual conditions – will discourage reporting as a dark solution to accounts of discrimination or harassment. A culturally-imposed concealment (or willful ignorance), resting on an honor-shame foundation, will always – that is, forever – be the wrong approach.

A worthy project for our time requires that Old Whitewater’s boosterism (harmful in so many areas) be consigned to the dustbin.

Instead, a virtuous approach will encourage reports of injuries, as only in this way can one know and address the full extent of injury.  

(An aside: Redman is perhaps the last reporter in the area who reports in a thorough way. He doesn’t have Whitewater as a beat, but he’s notably stronger than anyone from the Gazette or any Daily Union employee formerly assigned to Whitewater.)

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4 years ago

Kudos to those who spoke up. For people who put in a complaint the rest of us got the message that they were too busy and nothing was going to happen. Maybe we should be “REALISTIC” and “NOT RUSH THINGS” so you just give up. There are MORE problems out there!! We could have a SUPPORT GROUP of ignored parents in whitewater. It’s nice to want things to get better but ONE newspaper article isn’t going to be enough.