“Thank you so much for your presentation. It was eye-opening, and it helped me to see that discrimination still exists. Your speech helped me to understand how wrong racism is, and the stories you shared really touched me. My perspective changed because of it, and I want to thank you again for your hard work and all that you do.
– Aeri, Henry James Memorial School Student
On December 21, 2015, Deputy Director Cheryl Sharp and HRO Representative Diane Carter of the CHRO spoke at Henry James Memorial School in Simsbury on the subject of discrimination and bullying in schools. Middle school students learned about racism and disability discrimination in our nation and our state and how they can stand up against these forces in our society. They also learned how discrimination can affect their own lives and the ways they can work to eliminate it in their school.
One thing that many of the students shared was their shock that racism still exists in our society today in ways both obvious and subtle. With recent events across the country such as the civil rights demonstrations in Baltimore, New York, and Ferguson, there is little doubt that overt acts of racism still occur in America today. The spotlight on recent demonstrations in New Haven brought home the idea that Connecticut is far from immune from this kind of behavior. What these high-profile events can mask, however, are the smaller acts of discrimination that play out in school hallways and playgrounds every day.
At the December 21st event, students were asked to share experiences where they felt bullied or discriminated against because of something they couldn’t control. One student told how he was made fun of for wearing glasses. Another described a time she were discouraged from playing sports because she was a girl. A third talked about assumptions people made about him because of the neighborhood he comes from.
What many people forget is that this kind of treatment stems from the same place as the treatment that grabs national headlines. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This is as true of the school yard as it is in the workplace, in housing, or anywhere else in our society. The Commission continues its mission to eliminate discrimination in all its forms and hopes that, by raising awareness among students, that we can build a better world for future generations.
As part of this effort, the CHRO hosts its annual Kids’ Speak and Kids’ Court events. This year’s Kids’ Speak event will be held at the University Of Connecticut School Of Law in West Hartford on May 24, 2016. Speakers will meet with students from across the state to discuss civil rights and bullying in Connecticut. A month long essay contest on various civil rights topics will then follow. The top ten middle school essays and the top ten high school essays will then be selected to be presented by their authors at the Kids’ Court Competition held at the Capitol building.