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Task force addresses racism in Catholic schools

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) - In an attempt to push back against racism in Catholic schools, a local task force is working with the Catholic Diocese of Lansing to take action.

The National Catholic Education Association says more than 70 percent of students in Catholic schools across the country are white, with 17 percent being Latino, and only 8 percent African American.

That's why those here in mid-Michigan are working to make sure minority students in Catholic schools feel included.

"It's important to understand our students regardless of what background they have," said Joan Jackson Johnson, the chair of the Task Force on Race and Catholic Schools.

It all started when four Lansing Catholic High School football players took a knee during the National Anthem before a football game in 2017. 

Following this, they were benched by the school's administration.

"I think we made a mistake in not asking the boys to explain where they came from," said Jackson Johnson.

At the request of Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea and other leaders in the Diocese, a task force on race and Catholic schools was formed.

Jackson Johnson took the lead to push for change.

"One of the things that we found and we feel that training has to be a part of what we do, and it has to start with the Bishop," said Jackson Johnson.

Throughout the past year, the task force interviewed Catholic school students and their families about their thoughts on the topic.

After presenting their report to the Bishop, they've decided teaching more diverse history in classrooms is a good place to start. 

"We now have work to do," said Bishop Boyea. "How will we accommodate our racial minorities in our Catholic schools?"

Bishop Boyea says even though the report is finished, he sees this as a chance for a new beginning.

"Racism is an incredibly great problem in our country and it affects everyone including all of us in the church, I mean we're not immune to these problems," said Bishop Boyea.

He's optimistic about what's to come.

"I'm sure we'll make mistakes, I mean nobody's perfect, but we'll do the best we can," said Bishop Boyea. "I really appreciate the hard work that they've put into this."

The new diverse education plan will  be pitched to all the Catholic schools in the Lansing Diocese in hopes of creating a more inclusive environment for all students.

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ORIGINAL STORY: The Catholic Diocese of Lansing is taking action after parents say its schools need to be more inclusive.

A task force meant to fight racism in Catholic schools met today to present a report to the Diocese and Bishop Earl Boyea. 

It all started when four Lansing Catholic High School football players took a knee during the National Anthem before a football game in 2017.

Their symbolic act got them benched and caused a big controversy within the community.

Since then, a task force was created to take a close look at the issue and to address diversity in Catholic schools as a whole.

The group says that during the past few months, they've interviewed students and their families to get their thoughts on the topic.

"Some people didn't understand what was going on and it certainly didn't fit with my perception of the Catholic Church because Catholics have been in the forefront for civil rights for years and years and years," said Joan Jackson Johnson, the Chair of the Task Force on Race and Catholic Schools. "I think we made a mistake in not asking the boys where they came from, but as we looked at and addressed that issue we found other issues across the Diocese."

The task force has given its recommendations to the Diocese on what it should do now moving forward. 

6 News reporter Dana Whyte will have more on this story tonight on 6 News at 11.


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