Jan. 9, 2018 – West Bend, WI – The White Privilege Test that became a hot topic of discussion prior to the Christmas break, came up again during the public comment section of Monday’s West Bend School Board meeting.
The test was given Dec. 20 to about 150 students at Badger Middle School. Some parents in the district were upset about the line of questions and what they had to do with education. Click HERE to see the test.
Principal Dave Uelmen followed up with a note saying, “During the lesson, some classrooms deployed an optional, anonymous survey that was not derived from district curriculum. The survey was part of a follow up activity to discuss privilege as a lead-in to the “Civil Rights and A Mighty Long Way” module.”
At Monday’s meeting parent Susan True of West Bend addressed the board. Some of her comments are below. (Yes – it’s a little challenging to hear the women. Volume UP!)
– What alarmed me was the recent Privilege Test. When I saw West Bend was on featured on Tucker Carlson and Fox National News I became even more alarmed for the future of my kids in the West Bend Public School System.
– I want to know with this recent West Bend Public Schools making national news for reasons other than academic achievement is this the direction that was referenced by our superintendent Erik Olson upon resignation? And if it’s not what steps are being taken to reduce the exposure of our young minds to the misjudgment of a few teachers?
-This Privilege Survey… is basically in contrast to what Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘It’s not our outward appearance it’s the content of our character that matters’ and that is why this Privilege Survey was so hard hitting because it’s basically pigeon holing everyone in self reflection on your outward or inward non-character.
Parent Sara Zingsheim then followed with similar comments. She acknowledged that once the test came to light parents found it had been given “for the past three years, time in class had been devoted to this non-curricular controversial piece of paper.”
Zingsheim identified herself as a therapist who works with teenagers every day and she noted “disturbing trends have increased since the advent of social media in 2011. Since cyber bullying began almost 80 percent of teens now report being bullied. Two thirds of these teens have at least one suicide attempt.”
-“What do students need more of? Learning how to respect themselves and others, the value of hard work, addressing students anxiety and depression with encouraging words, understanding and compassion.”
-“Middle school students don’t need to discover what they should protest or how they’re different. More than any other time in our history we the adults have to realize how our kids are the same. They’re bullied, anxious, overwhelmed, depressed, suicidal and as parents and teachers we must turn our attention to what our kids need. It’s time that we take a stand.”
Jen Uelmen, wife of Badger School Principal Dave Uelmen, then spoke about following policies and procedures in the school district.
-“My concern is now this is a nationally-known topic because the proper channels were not followed.”
-“I’m wondering if parents are even concerned about how their negative actions towards the teachers and administration affect their children.”
-“I’m hoping that in the future parents will follow the proper channels when addressing teachers and administration in our schools.”
-“Our children are leaders for tomorrow and we need to be modeling our behavior that is respectful and sets a good example.”
Badger Principal Dave Uelmen then spoke to the board and praised his staff. “At Badger we have amazing kids,” he said.
“We have great families and very supportive families,” said Uelmen. “I’d like to give a shout out to my staff. Bar none, the best staff in my opinion, we have in West Bend.”
The board also addressed the Privilege Test as a follow up during a Jan. 4 meeting on curriculum and policy.
“It was clear in our meeting last week that board members felt the use of this particular questionnaire was inappropriate and the board was assured that this questionnaire will not be used in any of the district schools,” said Board President Tiffany Larson.
Larson said leadership was also encouraged to review Policy 381 when onboarding new teachers and reviewing policy with current teachers at the start of each school year.
Following the meeting board member Joel Ongert was asked how parents will know administration is following through on this directive.
“Laura Jackson (interim superintendent) assured us that onboarding of new teachers at the beginning of the school year and half way through the school year the principals will be reminding their teachers about the policies we have in place in regards to curriculum, what needs to be approved before something is being used in the classroom,” said Ongert.
Questioned whether there were any ramifications for the teacher who brought in the curriculum that was not approved by the district. Ongert said it was “a personnel matter – but the teachers are taking this hard.”