Parent Says Johnston Community School District Lacks Education On Black History Month

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JOHNSTON, Iowa — A Johnston Community School District parent is calling for the district to offer more education on culture in light of Black History Month.

Robert Moore says he was disappointed when his second grade child son told him his elementary school did not have programs or discussions for Black History Month.

“It was just unsettling. I want to say it was surprising, but we have a long, long way to go as a country, especially in these rural and suburban areas,” said Moore.

As a 2002 graduate from Johnston High School, Moore says even back then, there was a gap in the classroom.

“Twenty years and it’s still something that I am shocked and disappointed that isn’t at least a top of conversation topic. If not, at least some levels of implementation or planning around how that will be changing and continue to grow and change as the community changes,” said Moore.

The school district said in an email that core classes follow state curriculum guidelines that would include education on context of cultural history, which would include Black history. How that is delivered must meet those state guidelines, but is up to the teaching unit as to the method and delivery of the subject matter (oral report, discussion, guest speaker, written paper, book study, group project, etc.) 

The school district also provided several programs to WHO-TV that they feel celebrate the diversity in their schools. Specifically programing at Summit Middle School includes:

  • Books of significance for that month are featured in the library (civil rights, leadership, and history)
  • Units of study for literature include fiction and non-fiction that represents diverse authors and both social studies and literature units take on complicated cultural issues and equity. These take place throughout the year.
  • Summit clubs and organizations include opportunities for diverse students including Brother to Brother, Sister to Sister, and the Gay-Straight Alliance.

Summit Middle School also held a student-led social event in connection with Black History Month, but no specific curriculum-based learning materials or lessons were shared for this story. For a full list and details on these programs (which includes several other schools in the district) click here.

Moore believes this is where the curriculum can be improved, he insists these lessons could be more consistent and organized if a course of action was implemented by the school board.

“That’s the gap, it’s a discussion with a plan and action and commitment. The commitment to that plan. Those are the things that are missing and I charge those members with taking action,” said Moore.

The school district has been slowly growing in diversity, and this school year demographics for
Hispanic, Asian, and African American students has grown. As a result, Moore believes the curriculum should reflect that.

“I also want our kids to be exposed to the American history of the Asian culture, the American history of the Latino culture. I need that, and I’m a person that is a minority, my soul hungers for that and my kids… our kids’ souls have an appetite for that too,” said Moore.

Moore says he has addressed the school board in the past with his concerns and hopes to keep it a top priority.

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