NEWS

Johnson County community, leaders gather to share input on solutions to racial inequality

Meeting focused on school system & law enforcement

Opening remarks at a community discussion on racial disparities in youth systems were delivered by Sara Barron, co-chair
Opening remarks at a community discussion on racial disparities in youth systems were delivered by Sara Barron, co-chairwoman of the Johnson County Disproportionate Minority Contact Committee, at the Coralville Public Library on Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014. (Lynda Waddington/The Gazette)
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CORALVILLE — Parents, educators, administrators and local law enforcement gathered Wednesday at the Coralville Public Library to provide feedback on how to improve racial inequalities in the county.

The “Resolving Racial Disparities in Johnson County’s Youth-Serving Systems” forum was the second community event organized by the Johnson County Disproportionate Minority Contact Committee. The first was in May.

Wednesday’s gathering focused on getting input on how to ensure fairness and equality in both the school system and in local law enforcement.

LaTasha DeLoach, Disproportionate Minority Contact coordinator for Johnson County, said disproportionate minority contact has been discussed at a national level for the past 20 years. She highlighted the new pre-charge diversion program, a juvenile diversion and assistance program aimed at keeping youth out of the juvenile justice system.

The voluntary program is aimed at first-time juvenile offenders. Once diversion is completed, no formal charges will be filed.

“Everyone at the table is invested in this,” DeLoach said. “We can’t be successful without the community piece. The community is the driving force.”

Julie Eisele, a parent with a 13-year-old seventh-grader in the Iowa City Community School District, said she wants to see a more ethnically diverse student population in each school. She also expressed her desire that student achievement would be similar across all racial and ethnic groups.

“I think this should be important to everyone because we live in a democracy and everyone should want all of our children to achieve to their highest potential,” she said. Eisele has two children who have since graduated from the ICCSD.

One participantexpressed a desire to see more youth of color have the opportunity to be in after school activities such as music or dance. In order to help get kids to such activities, participants said they would like to see an activity bus take students home who are involved in activities.

An activity bus would also help give students in poverty a chance to attend activities, they said.

Lynette Jacoby, Johnson County Social Services director, said she would like to see more intramural sports offered as a way for students to get involved in their communities.

When it comes to a diverse workforce, John Bacon, principal of City High School in Iowa City, said recruitment and retention of staff of color is “absolutely a goal for us.”

“Our HR director attends job fairs across the region, trying to find ways to identify minority candidates for teaching positions,” he said. “It’s an area where clearly we need to continue to focus and do better.”

In order to promote a more diverse workforce, Bacon said he also works to develop Iowa students into potential future educators and leaders.

“I work with young people every day that I really believe would make great educators themselves,” Bacon said. “I’m in their ear constantly about going to college and becoming a teacher and I always tell them, ‘You’ve got a job back at City High.’”

To offer suggestions or feedback to the Johnson County Disproportionate Minority Contact Committee, email jocodmc@gmail.com.

l The Gazette Company’s We Create Here initiative explores storylines that will shape the future of Iowa. Learn more at wecreatehere.net or by contacting the reporter at (319) 398-8330.

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