CHARLOTTE – Vincent Holt remembers bringing home thick code of conduct booklets to review at the start of every school year. One statement always stood out.
It was the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools multiculturalism policy, which read CMS “supports the educational excellence regardless of race, gender, national origin, different abilities or religion.”
Holt always felt there was something missing from the statement.
He was among six people speaking in favor of changes to the policy during the Jan. 9 school board meeting. The proposed changes add color, ancestry, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, linguistics or language difference, age, socioeconomic status, physical abilities and academic skills to the list.
“Had these terms been part of the statement earlier on, I would have felt much safer, more accepted and welcome in school, which has been something hard to come by ever since I first came out as LGBQ+ in the eighth grade,” said Holt, a junior at the Northwest School of the Arts.
Alex Donatelli, a student at East Mecklenburg High School, believes the revised policy could prevent bullying. Donatelli reasons that it exposes students to different types of people.
“Everyone benefits from this policy, I believe, not just marginalized people,” Donatelli said. “When everybody can learn about different experiences, that definitely encourages empathy, which I believe we need today more than ever.”
Charlotte native Matt Nurkin has a third-grader and fifth-grader attending Eastover Elementary.
Nurkin also believes exposure to different perspectives promotes better understanding and empathy.
“The practical reality is that many of the students who are targeted in our school system for bullying are targeted specifically because they are different – because they are unique instead of being celebrated for it. That’s a problem.”
Amanda Dumas, the mother of a 7-year-old transgendered boy, was terrified to hear the negative experiences of parents in her support group. She’s been fortunate that her son’s school has been supportive.
“CMS has done a good job of making my son feel welcome and confident to thrive as his authentic self,” she said. “I think the multicultural updates continue to show families like ours that CMS stands for equality for all children in our school environment.”