WEST TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– Vigo County School Corporation Interim Superintendent Tom Balitewicz announced on Monday the corporation had implemented a diversity task force in response to issues of racial harassment at West Vigo High School last year.
Balitewicz had detailed plans for the task force at the last school board meeting two weeks ago, and said they have a preliminary meeting last Friday. He said two ideas at the meeting that stood out to him were reviewing policies regarding anti-racism at Vigo County Schools, and developing a strategic plan on diversity and inclusion.
He said the membership of the task force was still being finalized.
“Although we are still finalizing those on the task force, we had a preliminary meeting on last Friday and we have more work to do analyzing the membership of the task force, but we have started the process,” he said while addressing the crowd at the school board meeting Monday.
Sylvester Edwards, the Greater Terre Haute NAACP Chapter President, was one of the participants last Friday. He said he hopes the task force can help move forward with the healing process.
“I was asked to come here and be apart of the task force to start healing the community,” he said. “We have to go ahead and make sure that the healing process is in place. That’s where we’re at right now.”
Balitewicz spoke of further actions the school corporation is preparing. This includes a presentation from Matt McClendon, the VCSC director of civility, diversity and international exchange, on biases and stereotypes.
Another presentation, created by Megan Kirk, the school’s Project AWARE coordinator, would focus on bullying, hazing and harassment and the importance of proper reporting protocols for staff. Balitewicz said these trainings will be implemented in February.
Balitewicz also said the task force will look for outside organization’s that can help develop diversity trainings across all schools. He said they will look for an organization to implement the programming across middle and high schools, and a separate facilitator for elementary schools.
Edwards said he hopes VCSC can implement the right steps to avoid a situation like this in the future.
“One thing is words, and the other thing is action. How are we going to get to action?” He said. “You can’t get to action until something happens like what just happened at West Vigo. Now, they can start implementing these things, so I’m all for what they are trying to do.”
Balitewicz said he will meet with all athletic coaches in March to ensure proper reporting protocols are established, and they would also have athletes complete a training program that focused on “respecting diversity.”
He said he believes by starting these trainings, the corporation can ensure “they do not open another chapter” like this.
“I firmly believe that,” he said. “That we must bring education and understanding to this situation.”