Everyone invited to help build inclusive community Monday

Dear Editor:

On Monday and Tuesday, April 8 and 9, the Dolores High School Student Government will be hosting nationally recognized diversity and inclusion consultant Jamie Utt to present two programs on bully prevention and building inclusive communities. The high school presentation called "The Wall" will be on Tuesday morning and will focus on breaking down stereotypes and judgments. The middle school presentation, "The Antidote," is strictly about bully prevention and will take place on Tuesday afternoon.

Mr. Utt has described these two programs in the following manner. "The Antidote, my middle school assembly program, is a bullying-prevention message that uses stories from my middle school days to help students understand the nature of bullying while giving them tools to be 'UPstanders' to bullying in their own community." Regarding the presentation to high school students, Utt had this to say, "My high school assembly program, The Wall, interrogates the judgments that we make on a daily basis about the people in our communities. At its root, it encourages participants to understand the incredible power that each of us has to build the kind of inclusive community that we wish to see through simple transformations of our judgments and the ways we treat one another."

The idea to bring Mr. Utt to Dolores hatched after a student government member witnessed his presentation at a national student leadership conference last summer. When school resumed, the student approached the secondary school counselor about the idea. Then an alleged hate crime took place on campus and the student decided to again propose the idea of bringing Mr. Utt to Dolores during a student government meeting. After much discussion and reflection the student government voted to seek school board approval for the presentation, which was given on March 5.

The student council raised money and committed to paying $1,000 of the estimated $2,000 needed to bring Jamie Utt to town. To date, generous members of the community have contributed over $850. Several local restaurants have offered to feed Mr. Utt while he is in town, and a local hotel has offered a discount for his lodging. The student government would like to thank all of those gracious and helpful contributors. If you are interested in making a donation, please visit the Dolores School District offices at 100 N. 6th Street.

At the most recent school board meeting a few community members expressed concerns about the presentations. They felt that the presentations might be promoting homosexuality. Regarding this concern, Mr. Utt conveyed the following to me via email: "The essence of my programming is this: Regardless of what you may think of any other person and their identity or the morality of someone's sexual orientation, we have a responsibility to ensure that every single member of our community feels safe and secure in the learning environment. My programming aims to offer perspectives and tools to achieve that end."

More information about Mr. Utt's presentations can be found at jamieutt.com.

As noted at the school board meeting and in the last edition of the Dolores Star, parents who do not wish to allow their son or daughter to attend either the middle school bully prevention program or the high school presentation about building more inclusive communities may request this. An "opt-out" permission slip was sent home with students last week. These forms also can be found on the district's website under Up Coming Events on the right hand side.

Parents and community members who would like to meet Mr. Utt, hear more about his presentations, and ask questions are invited to attend a community meeting on Monday, April 8 in the high school library at 7 p.m.

Josh Munson

Dolores Student

Government Advisor