Forum addresses racial disproportionality of Johnson County’s Youth Serving systems

In order to begin to address and eliminate systemic racial disproportionality in Johnson County’s youth serving systems, all organizations involved are going to have to work together. By not blaming others and recognizing existing biases, the problem of disproportionality can begin to be tackled. That was the message Thursday at Resolving Racial Disparities in Johnson County’s Youth Serving systems. The event was hosted by Sara Barron, community relations director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Johnson County. On Thursday afternoon, law enforcement officials, judicial staff, school staff including superintendents, and representatives from the Department of Human Services addressed disproportionality within their existing systems in Johnson County. Ann Feldmann, assistant superintendent of the Iowa City Community School District and Joan Vanden Berg, the school district’s youth and family development coordinator, addressed disparity within the school district. Of the more than 6,000 office referrals during the 2012-13 school year, there were 3.69 more African-American students represented in the group. Out of the 6,021 office referrals, there were 81 calls to law enforcement. Lieutenant Doug Hart of the Iowa City Police Department said there were two main reasons for disparity within the police department: systemic problems or overt racism. In order to combat disparity, the department has been focusing on three key strategies, Hart said. The first strategy is engaging in the community. In noting the department’s community involvement, Hart said officers attended the Latino Festival in 2013 in Iowa City and will attend again this year. He noted department participation in other community events such as National Night Out and the Youth Police Academy. Hart said diversity helps attract a wide array of…