In January 2020, CRS facilitated a School-Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (School-SPIRIT) program at a high school in in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, to address concerns of bias-based incidents related to race at the school.
The Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General and an additional government official requested CRS services after an incident at the high school in February 2019, when a video circulated on social media of a white school police officer punching and pulling the hair of a Black female student. Two students were allegedly involved in a fight when the school police officer intervened. At least four students were expelled following the incident. Community members held a protest at the school during a school board meeting, calling for the officer to be fired for the way he restrained the student. District officials and parents in the area also reported concerns about racial slurs used by white students and racial tensions between Black and white students in the school. In November 2019, CRS convened school and government officials to plan a School-SPIRIT program. On the morning of the program, CRS trained 10 individuals from state and federal agencies as facilitators. The two-hour facilitation training provided volunteer facilitators with an overview of the program and relevant facilitation training topics, including the program logistics and goals, facilitator roles, and active listening techniques.
A diverse group of approximately 80 student leaders from grades nine through 12 participated in the SPIRIT program. In small breakout groups, student leaders identified inequitable security procedure enforcement as their top concern, including a lack of training for security staff. In addition, many students felt that school policies and procedures were disparately enforced against Black and Latino students. Working together, reorganized into small groups, the students developed potential solutions to address the issues, such as cultural and diversity training for security staff and updates to school policies to address procedures considered to be unfair.
At the conclusion of the program, participants created a SPIRIT council composed of a diverse group of student volunteers to implement some of the solutions developed during the program. The school principal and SPIRIT council members agreed to create an action plan to address the student-raised concerns.