Parents, teachers call for more training to address racism in Williamson County Schools

A number of parents and community members have called for more parental involvement and district training regarding racism in schools. (Community Impact staff)
A number of parents and community members have called for more parental involvement and district training regarding racism in schools. (Community Impact staff)

A number of parents and community members have called for more parental involvement and district training regarding racism in schools. (Community Impact staff)

Following several months of conversations, Williamson County Schools officials are looking to develop a comprehensive plan to address racism in schools.

During the WCS board of education meeting Jan. 19, a number of community members spoke about a lack of training and resources to address racial tension at schools as well as a need for the district to address incidents more directly.

Tizgel High, a Brentwood resident and parent of two WCS students, also called on the district to take action against underlying racism still present within schools, citing an assignment that drew national attention in 2019 in which students were asked to act as slaveholders. High said since that time, the district has not done enough to address racism and inequity in schools.

"I'm really disappointed. I was positive that the national news headlines about a Sunset Middle School teacher giving her students an assignment that required them to act as slaveholders and assign jobs to their slaves—that this body and the leadership would move to action. I was certain of it," High said. "I was really wrong, and I'm really sad to say that I was."

More parents called for the district to create a diversity and inclusion parental advisory committee to help the district select a diversity consultant.

This is not the first district discussion around racism in schools; last June, parents called for more diversity initiatives within the district. Shortly after, the district responded to a racial slur being written on the marquee on an elementary school in the district.

Kate Cotton, a teacher in the district, spoke during the meeting about a past incident of racism within the district and the tension among students that followed. She called on the district to provide more training to teachers on how to handle the conversations that follow these incidents and provide more support to students.

"I stayed calm and believed I had enough experience as a teacher in tricky situations to be able to handle the situation, but when I got in the room, I realized I was actually completely unprepared," Cotton said. "I would like to have a better set of skills in place should I be the teacher handling any racial incident that might occur in the future, and extemporaneously, I'd like to say that this is a big problem—it's a bigger problem than Williamson County. If somebody had a perfect solution, we probably would have implemented it by now. But I do think that we can be a leader in this, and we can create these committees and put the effort in. It will pay dividends in a lot of ways."

WCS Superintendent Jason Golden said over the past year, the district has been working to listen to feedback from stakeholders and parents about diversity.

"I've also spent a lot of time talking with teachers and a lot of time talking with students and listening to them over these issues, and I've gotten a lot of feedback over time," he said.

Golden said the district has already put a new process in place to require teachers to report any incidents of racism, including those on social media, so the district can respond. Golden said that previously, many incidents went unreported.

Golden said district staff has also realized the need for a more comprehensive plan as well as for professional help. WCS is currently vetting some outside groups to help develop a plan, he said.

"We've got to do more, and the 'more' is getting that help," Golden said.

A proposal to develop a plan is expected to be received by the district in the next one to two months, he said. Golden said the district may consider a parental committee in the future, but for now, the focus will be on securing a professionally constructed comprehensive plan.

"I want to emphasize to you as well as [to] our board that this focus is not just one thing. It is on making sure our students are being served appropriately, and it's going to take all of us together," Golden said.
By Wendy Sturges
A Houston native and graduate of St. Edward's University in Austin, Wendy Sturges has worked as a community journalist covering local government, health care, business and development since 2011. She has worked with Community Impact since 2015 as a reporter and editor and moved to Tennessee in 2019.


MOST RECENT

Williamson County Schools announced March 2 it is on track to have administered 2,500 vaccine doses. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)
Williamson County Schools on track to vaccinate 2,500 employees

The district has already administered 1,000 COVID-19 vaccines through its own clinic, according to WCS.

Tennessee will move to Phase 1C of its vaccine plan March 8. (Wendy Sturges/Community Impact Newspaper)
Tennessee to move to Phase 1C of vaccination plan March 8

The move comes less than two weeks after the opening of Phase 1B.

See how COVID-19 has impacted Williamson County in recent weeks. (Community Impact staff)
Williamson County active COVID-19 case count reaches 5-month low; officials urge continued mask wearing

The number of active coronavirus cases in Williamson County has dropped to 515 as of March 1, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. 

Following a recent decline in active COVID-19 cases, officials with Williamson County announced Feb. 26 that it will allow its mask mandate to expire Feb. 27 at midnight.  (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Williamson County will allow mask mandate to expire Feb. 27

Following a recent decline in active COVID-19 cases, officials with Williamson County announced Feb. 26 that it will allow its mask mandate to expire Feb. 27 at midnight.

Perry's Steakhouse & Grille opened its first Tennessee location Feb. 25 in Cool Springs. (Courtesy Perry's Steakhouse & Grille)
Perry's Steakhouse & Grille open in Cool Springs; Burger Dandy launches in Franklin and more news from February

Read the latest business and community news from the past month from Franklin and Brentwood.

Trader Joe's has existing locations in Green Hills and near Belle Meade. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Trader Joe's coming to Cool Springs; COVID-19 cases falling in Williamson County and more top Nashville news

Read the most popular news from the past week from the Franklin-Brentwood area.

See daily COVID-19 data updates from Williamson County. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Active COVID-19 cases in Williamson County have dropped by more than 50% since start of February

The county has not seen case numbers at that level since October, before a surge in new cases around the holiday season, according to Tennessee Department of Health data.

Perry's Steakhouse & Grille opened its first Tennessee location Feb. 25 in Cool Springs. (Courtesy Perry's Steakhouse & Grille)
Perry's Steakhouse & Grille now open in Cool Springs

This is the first Tennessee location for the company. 

Trader Joe's has existing locations in Green Hills and near Belle Meade. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
CONFIRMED: Trader Joe's plans for Cool Springs location 'sometime this year'

An official with Trader Joe's said the company is in the very early process of opening a store in Cool Springs.

Trader Joe's has existing locations in Green Hills and near Belle Meade. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Franklin approves application for Trader Joe's in Cool Springs

Franklin is one step closer to having its first Trader Joe's location following approval from the city to sell wine in the area.

The city of Brentwood approved a $249,419 contract for final design services for Fire Station No. 5 during its Feb. 22 meeting. (Wendy Sturges/Community Impact Newspaper)
Brentwood approves contract for new fire station

Plans are moving forward for a new fire station on Split Log Road.

Trader Joe's has existing locations in Green Hills and near Belle Meade. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Trader Joe's in Cool Springs? Grocer files application to do business in Franklin

The specialty grocery store has filed paperwork to sell wine at a location on Cool Springs Boulevard.