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Lebanon schools pressed on racial bullying claim

District cites current programs in place to address issues.

School officials said they were considering calls for the district to take additional steps against racism and bullying and working with the local parent who filed a federal civil rights complaint against the district.

“Obviously the dialog has already started,” David Lampe, the lawyer for the school district said, while Superintendent Mark North spoke with a representative of the Martin Luther King Jr. Coalition of Lebanon.

At Monday’s school board meeting, a resident and a representative of the coalition urged the district to schedule anti-racism training and seek assistance from the Great Lakes Equity Center for assistance in bolstering the district’s programs on equity, social justice and civil rights.

Rene Forrester, a Lebanon High School graduate with children who attended school in Lebanon, said, “No parent should fear for the safety of their children in the Lebanon City Schools.”

The coalition also said it planned to meet with local law enforcement and first responders on community relations.

The calls for action came a week after Heather Allen, a Lebanon woman with children who attended the Lebanon schools, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights claiming the district and police had failed to respond to her complaints about racism and bullying. Lampe said he was also in dialog with Allen’s lawyer.

The federal complaint lists a series of incidents beginning last August involving Allen’s biracial children and other students in school and off school grounds. The most recent incident involved a racist posting on the Instagram social network in March directed at Allen’s son at the junior high school.

After the call for action, administrators told the board of a wide range of programs designed to discourage racism and bullying: from clubs to speakers to entire units in the language arts classes focusing on preventing racism and bullying and encouraging students to treat everyone with respect.

“We’re doing a lot with our kiddos K through 12. It starts from the moment they enter our buildings,” Director of Student Services Krista Foley said.

North listed other steps, including an anonymous tip line, one of the complaining parent’s requests, but acknowledged more could be done to stamp out racism and other negative behavior.

“How can we do better in making those positive connections?” he said.

Board President Donna Davis Norris said the board would continue to take action against racism and bullying and expressed confidence the district would be vindicated of Allen’s allegations.

“I am confident that the evidence will reveal our administration responded appropriately,” she said in a statement.