The school serves students from rural and urban districts.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
CHAMPION -- Creation of a cultural diversity program at the Trumbull Career and Technical Center is credited with reducing by 40 percent the number of harassment and diversity complaints filed at the school.
"Back in 2000, there were concerns with students saying they were being harassed because of their race," said Vicky Thompson, adult education-human resources development coordinator. "This was new to the school."
Annette Austin, a cosmetology instructor at the school, was appointed diversity coordinator. Austin conducted research on racism in education while pursuing her master's degree.
"When I saw we had a need for it here, I volunteered and said I'd willing to help," Austin said.
Gary Hoffman, TCTC director, said the diversity program has been effective at a school that serves students from rural and urban districts.
"We have several in-service programs for the students to let them know upfront that it won't be tolerated," he said, referring to problems related to diversity. "They must learn how to work with people from all walks of life."
Austin was a good candidate for the diversity coordinator position because of her innovative techniques and her ability to relate to students, Hoffman said.
The club meets several times per year and participated in a variety of activities "attacking issues of prejudice," Austin said.
When a student believe he or she has been harassed or the victim of discrimination, he or she completes a form detailing the incident. Austin then talks to the parties involved and determines what if any punishment it merits. Punishment could range from a warning to conflict resolution sessions to suspension depending on the severity.
TCTC earned a diversity award from the Partners for Workplace Diversity, a group of community and business leaders. Thompson applied for the award which was presented for accomplishing a change in attitude or behavior.
Austin formed a diversity club which has performed a talent show and is developing a cookbook of the staff's favorite recipes. The club includes 80 to 90 students.
"We have male and female, Caucasian and African-American -- it's just the gamut," Thompson said. "There are some students who are honors students and others who may be learning-disabled. It's diversity across a variety of areas."
The club focuses on different types of cultural differences.
"Your culture is not necessarily part of ethnicity," Thompson said.
Staff members contributing to the cookbook for example were to write a short description of a family memory connected to the recipe, explaining why it's important to them.
"Respect for others and respect for individuals' differences is what I promote," said Austin, a 10-year veteran of TCTC.