WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – West Des Moines community members gathered for a public forum on Tuesday to discuss topics like mental health, student safety and equity in the community.
The idea to hold a six-panel discussion on the topics came following a 42-year-old woman charged in a hate crime and awaiting a competency hearing. In December, police say Nicole Poole intentionally ran over a 14-year-old girl because she was Hispanic.
Des Moines Area Religious Council member Sarah Trone Garriott said, “It’s really important to be talking about how we are working toward a community where all people feel safe, welcome and supported in this community.”
West Des Moines Community Schools Superintendent Lisa Remy said a few years ago the district started a program called Deep Equity that gives students and faculty resources needed to feel accepted.
“We want our families and our students to feel supported. We want them to feel safe. We want them to understand the resources that we have both inside our system, inside our schools, as well as the community,” Remy said.
Some signs a student may be struggling include disengaging in the classroom and consistent absences.
“If we have behavior concerns, they can help our teachers proactively think about strategies to help with de-escalation with students or also problem solve with our administrators in our buildings,” Remy said.
Trone Garriott said listening to community feedback is key to making everyone feel welcome.
“It gives the opportunity for people who are feeling that tension to share their concerns, to reach out for help and for the community to respond,” Garriott said.
Students and faculty in the district will meet at a separate session Thursday to discuss similar topics.