Columbus schools encouraging tolerance, citizenship

The Columbus City Schools are focusing on instilling the ideals of diversity and citizenship in their students, Superintendent Gene Harris discussed at the Feb. 19 board meeting.

The effort will encourage students to value different types of people and different points of view, show civic responsibility and participate in the political process.

"It was our students at Columbus Alternative High School that really started the whole movement that is now Youth at the Booth. You remember they were with state Representative Joyce Beatty to introduce legislation that would allow high school students to actually work at voting booths. That is the kind of demonstration of understanding and participation in the political process we are talking about," said Harris.

Harris said she also wants this policy to have a positive impact by helping to reduce bullying by getting kids to stop harassing each other, and also to help them recognize that all their classmates are equally valuable and should be treated with respect.

"It’s really going to be a challenge, but its something that I think this policy really drives us to think about – how it gets done and how to do it," said Harris.

Board member W. Carlton Weddington expressed his appreciation for this policy and what both current students and alumni have done with it.

"We have a young man in Ohio now working with the Obama campaign that was a Centennial graduate, and he’s doing a great job showing his experience and his talents. I also think we most recently saw the Youth Agenda coming in here to Columbus City Schools and most of us have participated with what Columbus Alternative did with the Anneberg Civic Program," said Weddington.

Executive Director of Student Assistance, Intervention and Outreach, Dr. Elaine Bell, did give one caveat on having this kind of policy.

"If we are truly going to allow students to demonstrate civic responsibility and to demonstrate cultural competence, we have to be prepared for those who support what we believe and those to challenge it," said Bell. "We want them to know that when there are injustices in the law, that they have the right and the privilege to challenge them, so we have to be willing then to allow our students to give their participation. It can’t be just to sanction or rubber stamp what we already thought of."

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