The Robbins Round Table meeting at Collins Chapel Church on Aug. 11 was attended by a few new faces, but no families. The purposes of the meetings are to open dialogue and offer interaction between diverse cultures while addressing issues with county leaders. Leaders included representatives from law enforcement and public education.

Diversity enrichment and education were repeated topics of discussion. Citizens said that they wanted to learn about other cultures and asked how to make it happen. One suggestion was to allow students to form their own clubs within the school systems. The prevailing concern was how to get families from the community to attend their meetings.

“We need parents and children to come, and that means we need provisions for childcare,” National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) President of Montgomery County and meeting director Desmond Hairston said.

Hairston also suggested that diversity training be county-wide. 

Moore County District Judge Tiffany Bartholomew said statewide [mandatory] African American culture training in public education had not been approved.

Concerns about equality in education included discussion on illiteracy and how it affected discipline. When parents cannot read the reasons why a child is disciplined in school, and the child cannot read, problems grow. In-school disciplinary programs help students learn to read. 

“Children need to see teachers who look like them,” Robbins Round Table organizer Diane Wyatt said. “They need to know they can be more than janitors.”

North Moore Principal Jenny Purvis said that three openings were difficult to fill with a minority teacher because there are not enough attractions to retain any young people – they choose to work in large cities. A male African American Social Studies teacher did choose to work for North Moore this year to fill one of the openings.

“We need to grow our own,” Purvis said about inspiring youth to become teachers and work in the area.

Purvis said that parents do not want to buy a college education for their child to become a teacher because the wages are too low for them to care for themselves or start a family.

There was discussion on racial profiling and hiring practices in law enforcement. 

Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said that the diversity ratio of law enforcement staff had not been broken down, but there is a diverse team. He said that there were several employees with Hispanic heritage, and he had filled three open positions with “experienced” officers from Richmond County.

“I don’t look at race,” Fields said about hiring practices. “In fact, I believe we should take race off forms.”

Article, videos, and photo by Sandhills Sentinel Journalism Intern Stephanie M. Sellers.

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