A former TCAPS student, Ashley Ko, started a petition to call for more representation for people of color in the curriculum and staff training on diversity.
Ko graduated from Traverse City Central High School in 2015, and started reflecting on her time at TCAPS after hearing the national dialogue about social justice.
“Hearing that dialogue just started having me reflect on my experience at TCAPS and the ways that I could start change,” said Ko.
She said her experience overall was good, though there is a lot that could be changed.
“Overall I had a really good experience there, but I think on paper hides a lot of the daily microaggressions that happened,” said Ko. “There was a general lack of knowledge from my classmates and educators about my experience as an Asian American in a mostly white environment.”
She also said the literature was not as diverse as it could have been.
“I probably read two or three books that weren’t written by a white author or focused on a white character during my time through TCAPS,” said Ko.
Ko would also like to see teachers and staff attend anti-racism trainings.
“There’s only so much that can happen if the educators themselves aren’t aware of biases they also hold in the classroom,” said Ko.
TCAPS Superintendent Dr. John VanWagoner said he believes it’s important to embrace and celebrate diversity and social justice in the community.
“I’ve already talked with staff about starting to review what are the things we haven’t embedded in our curriculum already,” said VanWagoner. “I think we’ll be surprised on some of the things we have, but I think we’ll also be surprised by some of the things we do not and how they are not maybe systemic across grade levels.”
VanWagoner will be working alongside other school districts and community leaders to create a regional diversity group.
“It’ll focus on the work of diversity and inclusion and finding ways to understand it and learn it ourselves as well as find ways to celebrate that in our community,” said VanWagoner.
The group also plans to work with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to go through training of their own.
“We’re going to lead by example in that aspect to make sure that we’re understanding it so we can begin to work with our own staff and people within the community,” said VanWagoner.
Ko hopes her petition will spark more change in the school district.
“It’s a right to be able to learn about my history and for Black student to learn about their own history and see people who are like them brought to the like front of conversations,” said Ko.