NEWS On the Green in no way conducted a thorough investigation of race relations in Brookfield and Masury, but, in interviews with local residents, it was the Brookfield Local School District, not the police department or township government, that was mentioned more often in terms of a poor racial legacy.
School Supt. Toby Gibson said he found it “interesting and concerning” that there were folks not happy with their treatment at Brookfield schools. He said he is “committed to making sure that every single student, including our minority students feel welcome and safe,” and that school officials will be conducting a survey, the results of which will “allow us to address concerns and continue to move forward improving the climate, culture and educational process for all stakeholders, irregardless of race, creed or gender.”
While some of the issues go back decades and hardly can be blamed on current school officials — and some of it is anecdotal — right or wrong, the comments contribute to a public opinion that can damage the district’s reputation.
Martha Harvey, who is a naturalized citizen born in Mexico, said her children would tell her of negative comments about Hispanics when they attended school.
Speaking of her youngest daughter, who graduated about four years ago, Harvey said, “She used to hear people talking about Hispanics and making fun and she used to be so mad.”
“I met a girl one day, she was telling me she had to move somewhere else, because Brookfield didn’t want to accept the kids in there because they was Hispanic,” Harvey said, speaking of an incident that occurred three or four years ago.
That girl’s family ended up moving to another school district, Harvey said.
LaRonda Nix, who is Black, said she has heard stories of Blacks told essentially the same thing.
“They were told they can go to school elsewhere, which is what they wanted us to do,” said the mother of two grown children.
Nix and her husband, Derek, were involved in a legal dispute with the school that they said they cannot talk about. Because of that suit, other families have sought them out for advice, Derek Nix said.
“A lot of kids now come by and say they were experiencing racism in this school today,” he said. “They need to reform that Brookfield school. They need to tear it down and rebuild it again because they bring in a lot of their family, and they don’t give other Black people or minorities a chance to get a position in that school system because they lock everybody else out.”
Gibson said he is “always trying to improve the perception of this district.” That’s where the “climate survey” of students, staff and families that will be conducted by the school’s new Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports committee will come in.
“I have been in the district for 20 years and I cannot remember this ever being done,” Gibson said.
Gibson said he has set a school priority of “ensuring that we are inclusive of all races and treat all students the same. If a student or their family would ever feel differently, I encourage them to contact my office immediately so that we can address the issues that they are facing.”