Parents rally against discrimination in Summit County schools
November 12, 2016
Parents, their little ones and community members marched for peace down Main Street in Frisco, telling the community they would not stand for discrimination in schools.
Summit County Moms created a Facebook page where they posted that this was not meant to be a political rally. Many of the parents and students at the protest have started hearing about instances of bullying in schools. Some of the stories involved children being bullied because of their race, but other stories leaned the other direction and kids were bullied because they were seen as supporting President-elect Donald Trump.
Jennifer Horne, a parent at the protest, said that while everyone in the county had their political opinions, this event was meant to focus on children in Summit County schools.
"It's about bullying," she said. "We just don't want our kids to have to put up with that because it's not right."
Demonstrators met at Frisco Elementary School Saturday morning, and before the group began the walk toward Main Street, event organizer Karin Mitchell thanked people for coming.
"It is our job and our duty to make (Summit) a peaceful community," she said.
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After Brexit, — a vote by Britain to leave the European Union — immigrants in the community faced discrimination. People there started using a safety pin as a symbol against prejudice. The hashtag #safetypin was born from the movement, and it became a symbol of people standing together.
More recently, articles have been surfacing asking people in the United States to use the safety pin to show that they stand against discrimination. In this spirit, Horne and some other parents handed out safety pins at Frisco Elementary. Some parents and students carried signs that were in both Spanish and English as a sign of support.
Liz McFarland, who teaches third grade at Silverthorne Elementary School, led the group in a chant from the Calming Kids: Creating a Non-Violent World program. The group sang, "The light in me sees the light in you, the peace in me sees the peace in you." The demonstrators later used this chant as they moved along Main Street.
McFarland said that the principal at Silverthorne Elementary, Jeff Johnson, has done a good job holding meetings with teachers to ensure that the school will continue to be free of bullying. She added that teachers at the school have been given the option to wear the safety pins, and that pins have been made available to parents as well.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Alabama, surveyed 2,000 K-12 teachers nationwide through its program, Teaching Tolerance. While the organization said its report, The Trump Effect, is not a scientific survey, it showed that 67 percent of the surveyed teachers reported that their students "expressed concerns or fears of what would happen to them or their families after the election." One-third of the teachers said that they saw an increase in anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment in their schools.
"I think the election made some of us feel insecure about our safety, and I think our kids feel some of that," Mitchell said.
She added that it was important for the kids to know that they are supported and loved. The next step will be trying to hang posters in the schools so that the students remember to fight against bullying.
During the rally, the group swelled to nearly 50 people as they walked on Main Street. Dillon's Mayor Kevin Burns joined as drivers passing by honked in support, or waved peace signs out their windows.
The group made a stop at Frisco Town Hall before heading back to Frisco Elementary. There, they grouped the kids together and Mitchell asked them if they thought bullying was a good thing. All 18 of them shouted back "no!"
Mitchell told the kids she was proud of them and reminded them that if they are bullied at school that this group loves them.
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