On Monday May 6th BRIDGE through the Race Task Force organized a meeting between the Department of Justice and local superintendents, college and private school representatives, local racial and social justice organization leaders and DA Andrea Harrington. All but two of our Berkshire County superintendents were represented--and all expresses interest. Mildred Duprey de Robles, Conciliation Specialist with the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Services department presented us with the DOJ’s SPIRIT program. The DOJ CRS was born out of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and refined with the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. Through community, school and consultation services the Department of Justice (DOJ) offers support for the 8 protected categories. SPIRIT stands for “Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together.” The DOJ trains local community members to facilitate student groups to identify and resolve school problems.
This program attracted us because it is student led, has the potential to sustain the work we are doing in schools and complements the work, like A World of Difference, schools are already doing. CBRSD will be the first school district in our area to begin the SPIRIT program by hosting the DOJ to offer a facilitator training for 2019-2020 school facilitators. For close to 10 years BRIDGE has being developing a relationship with the DOJ and the benefits of that are being brought to the community. The feedback from the local superintendents and education leaders was positive and we hope CBRSD’s lead paves the way for all school districts to follow. Additionally Pittsfield and Lenox superintendents have expressed interest and more are gathering information and gauging interest still. June 4th is our first SPIRIT facilitation training.
After the superintendents BRIDGE Race Task Force hosted a meeting for its partners and members to learn about how SPIRIT can be implemented city or county wide. Mildred shared an example of Easthampton’s (MA) experience with the SPIRIT program. After their school district used the SPIRIT program and presented the city with the student-created solutions the city was so impressed they took on the program city-wide. The impact of SPIRIT-CITY has been very positive evidenced by Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle’s offer to promote it.
For more information: Article on Easthampton's SPIRIT Program. We look forward to continuing the discussion of SPIRIT countywide and supporting schools to make use of this free government inclusive support service.