Residents can oppose discrimination online

2013-09-24T20:30:00Z 2013-09-24T21:05:10Z Residents can oppose discrimination onlineSUSAN EMERY Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
September 24, 2013 8:30 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | Residents who want to pledge their opposition to discrimination soon will be able to do so online.

A “welcome” statement created by Valparaiso's Advisory Human Relations Council will be posted on a website so residents can sign it electronically in coming weeks, Chair Ivan Bodensteiner said Tuesday at a meeting at City Hall.

The website's address will be shared with residents when details are finalized, he said.

The statement was created in response to incidents of racially derogatory comments aimed at minorities in the city. The full document has been placed on the city's website.

Residents who sign it pledge their opposition to discrimination, including harassment, based on race, color, national origin, gender, disability, religion, age, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status.

It has been signed by council members as well as Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas, Valparaiso University President Mark Heckler, Ivy Tech Chancellor Thomas Coley and Valparaiso Community Schools Superintendent Michael Berta.

Regarding racial incidents, Bodensteiner said, “Some of these things are still happening.”

He said a “drive-by event” occurred on a Saturday in early September. Drive-by refers to people in vehicles who shout derogatory comments at minorities who are walking.

Though it's not clear if the incident happened on the Valparaiso University campus, it prompted Heckler to write a memo to faculty, staff and students calling for a “higher standard of conduct,” Bodensteiner said.

Another incident occurred at the Popcorn Festival. It involved a 12-year-old boy who was told to pull up his pants by police officers. He later was charged with disorderly conduct and battery after reportedly attacking police.

To help resolve such issues, Bodensteiner said he would explore the possibility of bringing a mediation service to Valparaiso. He said he would look at cities that have the service to see how it might work locally.

The council also discussed members' attendance at past and future events that promote diversity.

Council member Zahra Nwabara expressed concern the council did not have enough of a presence at some events.

“We don't really have any visibility,” she said. “Nobody knows what we're doing.”

She encouraged members to attend events and tell residents they are members of the Human Relations Council.

“There are so many things happening, we don't have to create our own stuff," Nwabara said.

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