Residents Defend Hampton Schools’ Record On Prejudice At Forum

May 21, 2019

: Hampton residents talk diversity with local clergy at a school district listening session Monday.
Credit Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Hampton residents are talking about how their public schools can do a better job handling prejudice.

About 50 people, most of them white, came out to a listening session held by the local school district Monday night.

Superintendent Kathleen Murphy says Hampton has been working toward a meeting like this for more than a year. 

More recently, the district made headlines after the parents of a black third grader alleged that administrators mishandled their reports of racist bullying. Murphy disagrees.

But she said she heard Monday that her district can do more to recruit a diverse staff and teach kids and faculty about tolerance.

“So it’s very valuable as you begin to put together a plan to really tackle the issues that we face,” she said.

Attendees included supporters of school administrators, and those who saw room for change.

Local parent Crystal Hardy said she thinks schools should devote extra time to diversity education, like they do for school safety.

: Hampton residents talk diversity with local clergy at a school district listening session Monday.
Credit Annie Ropeik / NHPR

“I think it begins as early as pre-school, instilling these things in our classrooms,” she said, to murmurs of agreement.

Tracy Kelly, who is white and grew up in Hampton, has an adopted son from South Korea who has special needs. She defended the district, saying her family has had a great experience there.

“I’m not saying there aren’t challenges, because I know that there are. … I know there are disparities in income and some people unfortunately are the victims of others’ ignorance or just flat-out meanness, so we have to take care of that,” she said. “But I think in general the community here is very welcoming – even though it’s not that diverse.”

While most of the forum was spent broadly discussing the value of diversity, a few parents pressed Murphy to identify specific areas of school policy or curriculum that she wants to improve. Murphy said the district is looking forward to discussing those going forward.

Seacoast NAACP president Rogers Johnson, who’s also head of the Governor’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion, said he was disappointed by the lack of specifics he heard at the forum.

“It’s great for people to believe that, ‘OK, Hampton is a very welcoming community.’ That’s wonderful,” Johnson said. “If it’s not welcoming for everyone, then why not? How do we fix it? What things should we be teaching in school?”

Murphy says Hampton’s next steps will include more teacher equity training with the nonprofit New Hampshire Voice, as well as a third-party assessment of the recent bullying issue.