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The Daily Tar Heel

Summit to Tackle Bigotry in High Schools

Students from Chapel Hill, East Chapel Hill and Orange County high schools will be joined by local government officials Friday and Saturday during a conference aimed at reducing discrimination based on race, religion, sex and sexual orientation in the youth community.

The summit, which is composed and sponsored by the Orange County Human Rights and Relations committee, aims to gather feedback from students about discrimination.

Annette Moore, director of the Department of Human Rights and Relations, said the committee sent out several hundred surveys to the three local high schools after reviewing data that suggested a high level of harassment among high schools students.

"From the surveys, we found out that the biggest problems was discrimination," Moore said. "Students were being harassed for months and even years and would not tell administration officials."

The summit will begin at 8 p.m. Friday at the Hanes Art Center, where poet Ursula Rucker will perform. Saturday registration will start at 7:30 a.m. at the Sheraton Hotel in Chapel Hill.

James Spivey, the department's office manager, said students will be able to conduct their own discussions on topics concerning discrimination Saturday. "The summit will be discussion-based with no debates," Spivey said. "The discussion will also be facilitated by the Orange County Dispute and Settlement Center."

Orange County Human Rights and Relations Committee members said they are hoping the discussion will lead students to produce effective dialogue that will reduce discrimination. "Hopefully, students will be open about the concerns that they have so there can be solutions to these problems," Spivey said.

School board members and Orange County Commissioners also are expected to attend the summit.

Moore said having officials present at the meeting is necessary for the conference to make any real impact. "They are the policy makers," Moore said. "When the students come up with solutions, they need to be there to hear them."

Other sponsors besides the Orange County Human Rights and Relations Committee include the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Orange County Schools, Orange County Arts Commissioners and the Orange County Settlement and Dispute Center.

Josephine Harris, special programs director for Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools, said the district is sponsoring the program because it believes giving students the chance to speak out about issues like discrimination is important.

"Concerns and solutions concerning discrimination issues will have more ownership if it comes from the students."

The City Editor can be reached at citydesk@unc.edu.

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