Zoom call with BV superintendent urges change for racial equality

As students’ stories of racism surface after Blue Valley’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement, students and alumni discuss ways the district can end racial inequality and bullying with superintendent Tonya Merrigan.

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Maddie Oliver, Chief Writer

In light of the Black Lives Matter movement, BVNWnews was invited to participate in a Zoom Call run by 2019 BVNW alumna Cynthia Dong and Blue Valley Superintendent Tonya Merrigan on Wed. July 8 to discuss the racist actions of faculty and students toward people of color. Many students on the call shared their own personal experiences of how they have been affected by racism in Blue Valley, sparking a call for change within the district, Merrigan said. 

One of the topics discussed in the call was the lack of diversity in Blue Valley’s faculty. Blue Valley North student and Black Student Union leader Ephren Taylor said he felt more comfortable having a Black teacher because he believed he or she would not be racially discriminative toward any student. 

“If you have a Black teacher, you already know they are not going to be discriminating against Black people because they know what it’s like to be Black,” Taylor said. “You wouldn’t have to do ‘anti-racism training’ for them against African American students. If the only images of Black people that we see are in chains or being a janitor, subconsciously that would be damaging to how Black people view Black people and how other people view Black people.” 

After mention of several experiences involving Blue Valley students and faculty members going unpunished for making racist remarks and comments, Merrigan mentioned how racism should get more of a punishment, similar to the ones for substance abuse. Blue Valley West alumna of  2019 April Ma, said Blue Valley needs to determine a way for all racist actions to be not only chastised, but for the behavior to be corrected and amended. 

“When it comes to racism and substance abuse, those are two things you can’t just throw out punishments for. Those things need to be corrected,” Ma said.  “When you punish students and don’t try to change anything, they harbor resentment for being punished. There not only needs to be a way for students to be punished; they also need to learn.”

At the close of the call, Merrigan said a thank you to all the students who participated with their stories in the Zoom call. Although she said that she doesn’t have a clear answer right now, Blue Valley is in the works of creating a big change in its schools.  

“If you are a student in our system, you are going to see a [policy toward racism] that is very consistent,” Merrigan said. “We have started training with teachers [and] principals on how to talk about racism. There are lots of things happening, so we will continue to give updates through the diversity committee. Blue Valley, over the course of this year, will develop a really well thought out plan, and we will publish that.” 

If there are any other racial concerns people have toward Blue Valley that need to be addressed, Dong said she will be happy to pass the messages on to the District and Merrigan. 

“If you have any more questions or concerns you would like to bring up to the district or Dr. Merrigan, you can reach me any way and I will make sure it gets to the district,” Dong said. “I know this was not easy for all of us and I really appreciate you guys being open and vulnerable. I can’t put into words how much that means to me.” 

For any concerns needed to be addressed towards the district, Dong’s email, Facebook and Instagram handle are listed below. 

Email: [email protected]

Facebook: cynthia.dong.710

Instagram: @thecynthiadong