Community leaders organize town hall to discuss racially insensitive photo of JCPS students

Community leaders organize town hall...

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Around 100 people gathered inside the Quinn Chapel AME Church Wednesday night to talk about race relations in their community.

The town hall was organized by community leaders in response to controversial photo involving three Jefferson City Public School students.

The picture posted to social media earlier this month showed the teenage students around a dirty car with a swastika and racial slur written on it.

"We’re just trying to have conversations," said superintendent Larry Linthacum. "It’s not so much a school issue, it’s a community issue and we want to be a part of the solution."

Linthacum was invited to sit on a panel Wednesday night alongside other community leaders including Ward 5 council member Larry Henry and Missouri NAACP President Rod Chapel

The discussion ranged in topics from addressing race issues within the school district to hiring more diverse teachers.

"I felt it was important for me to speak my peace, and see what everyone else had to say, and to discuss what we’re going to do in the future," said Natile Walker, who has four children in the Jefferson City school district.

Walker said her high school daughter was confused by the controversial photo that was posted to social media.

"Her first response was these kids speak to me every day," Walker said.

Rev. Cassandra Gould, who also sat on the panel, said she had high school church members come to her and said they didn't feel safe at school after seeing the picture.

Some Jefferson City High School alumni also talked about experiencing similar experiences while in school.

"It’s kind of shocking to know it still existed in the high school level because I thought maybe we were phasing out of that, but apparently we’re not," said Ashley Kaufman.

Kaufman, a graduate of JCPS with two young children, said she went to Wednesday night's town hall to learn what steps the district would be taking to address the issues.

"I really didn’t think those types of things existed in our high school until hearing the parents and hearing how their children were treated differently," she said.

Kaufman and Walker said they plan on coming to other town hall meetings.

"We can do a lot of talking, but in turn there needs to be action," Kaufman said. "I feel like these talks have probably been had before. I'm hopeful that maybe something will happen or a change can be enacted."

The next town hall will take place on Oct. 9 at 6:30 p.m. JCPS is also in the process of planning at least three community meetings.

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