WEST TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– Fallout from racist incidents at West Vigo High School continued at the school board meeting Monday, as 10 members from a diversity committee formed in the aftermath addressed their recent dismissal.
The Vigo County School Corporation had formed a diversity committee earlier this year in response to what happened at West Vigo High School in November. The task force included interim superintendent Tom Balitewicz and the corporation’s chief diversity and inclusion officer Matthew McClendon.
Balitewicz also reached out to community members to take part on the board. They held several meetings the past few months, and disclosure of what was in the full report regarding the investigation into those incidents became a point of contention.
10 members of the task force asked to receive the full report to understand the scope of what happened. However, the corporation was concerned about privacy rights for those involved.
The situation stemmed from what appeared to be a miscommunication between the two sides. Balitewicz said he thought from a meeting in March they agreed to move forward with the task force receiving a summary of the report, and when he received a letter asking for the full one, they had reached an impasse.
“I knew a full report would be very difficult. I know that [the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act] exists, there’s privacy considerations, and there’s a lot of private information in that report,” Balitewicz said while addressing a packed crowd Monday.
Balitewicz did say he apologized for to several of the members, as he wish he sought dialogue on the situation.
“That was my biggest error– I should’ve gone back to the committee, tried some diplomacy. I wish they would’ve come to me about the demand for a full report,” he said.
Dr. Mary Howard-Hamilton, one of the former committee members, said they believed there was some misinterpretation of their original letter.
“We’re still a little confused with regards to how they interpreted our letter,” she said. “It’s really important that we do have that conversation with them.”
The group came with a list of recommendations for the board Monday. Among them was hoping to have a conversation with the administration regarding what happened, allowing members to be reinstated if they choose and having no one else appointed to the committee in the meantime.
Howard-Hamilton said, while she was hoping for more of a response regarding their recommendations Monday, she found it “acceptable” to be moving forward with both sides wanting to discuss the future.
“What we really want to do is we really want to have the conversation with the leadership to make sure we are all on the same page, that we all have the same goals and objectives,” she said following the meeting.
She added that she still hopes to see a redacted version of the report– something she sees as vital for their mission.
“We don’t want to know the who. We want to know what are the issues,” she said. “It’s difficult to have a diversity committee if we don’t know what the issues are.”
Balitewicz said he was open to speaking with the group.
“I think we take the recommendations laid out by Dr. Howard-Hamilton, and we have a discussion about them,” he said.
Howard-Hamilton said she hopes to see some of the ideas they had discussed in the previous months come to fruition.
“There are some great minds on the committee. We have great ideas, we really do,” she said. “But we’ll wait and see how the school board is going to react to our recommendations.”