SHAKER LIFE | SPRING 2017 45 Keith Langford, coordinator of Family and Community Engagement for the District, hosted an open conversation at the high school in January, inviting all students to a discussion with school officials and police on building a stronger relationship. “We understand in our City that there’s a real divide between the police department and younger people,” says DeMuth. “We want students to share their feelings and we want them to talk to us. To keep that communication open, we need to be less intimidating and more approachable.” The discussion was a success, with more than 50 students of different grade levels and 10 police officers in attendance. Most of the students submitted questions anonymously on notecards or asked in person. “We had terrific engagement from both the students and police,” says Langford. “I think both parties came away with a better understanding of how each can improve the relationships moving forward.” Many of the questions revealed students’ concerns with current events, including use of force and the Black Lives Matter movement. “We were able to see things through their eyes,” DeMuth says. “Part of our job was to dispel some of the myths about law enforcement generated by the media, and some of it was to acknowledge what’s been happening. But for an hour-long discussion, it was a great first step. We really want to continue to meet with a cross-section of students so that we can build these relationships and tear down any walls.” Next, Langford has plans to start a PASS student advisory committee. He says about 20 students at the January meeting took applications to be on the advisory committee. The committee will work with SHPD and the Schools to bring about change that will make for a better relationship.
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