Morgan Hill city, school district teaming up to encourage tolerance

Live Oak High School students from left, Daniel Galli, Austin

Over cups of coffee every other month, Morgan Hill’s leaders at
the school district, police department and city council are meeting
to share their ideas of how to work better together on projects
that will benefit the community.
Over cups of coffee every other month, Morgan Hill’s leaders at the school district, police department and city council are meeting to share their ideas of how to work better together on projects that will benefit the community.

The focus of the joint city council/Morgan Hill Unified School District meeting Thursday morning is to pool resources and align their goals on school and community safety, with the incident at Live Oak High School on Cinco de Mayo as the linchpin.

Tension among some Hispanic residents and others, including Tea Party members, reached its height in recent memory after the principal at Live Oak asked that four students go home after they refused to turn their American flag T-shirts inside out on Cinco de Mayo, a day that is celebrated for Mexico’s victory over the French in 1862. On May 6, a few hundred mostly Hispanic students walked out of school and marched through Morgan Hill demanding respect.

Superintendent Wes Smith thanked Police Chief Bruce Cumming at the meeting for his department’s work during that week. Both were thankful that no one was injured and Cumming called the response a success for that reason.

The investigation by the school district into the day’s events concluded last week. Smith could only say, “We took the appropriate actions,” because it is a personnel matter. Principal Nick Boden is retiring this year – a decision he made before May 5. Smith said the school district is currently interviewing candidates for the principal position at Live Oak and will announce the name at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Since the days following May 5, Smith has been developing ideas to plan for next year’s Cinco de Mayo and integrate lessons on tolerance and open discussions into the high schools and eventually the middle and elementary schools. He has also met with a mediator from the Department of Justice who was a former educator and is experienced in working with communities “when there is an upheaval,” Smith said.

The city and school district wish to engage the community and unearth the problem that caused so much division – even across the nation once the incident was picked up by most major media outlets.

“The community is the link to how it gets into the school,” Morgan Hill Mayor Steve Tate said.

Both groups will work this summer to develop a clear plan of action before school begins. City Manager Ed Tewes is reviewing a list of resources that will help start the conversation in the community. Smith will also dedicate more time to researching strategies for educators to use moving forward.

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