In January, LeAnn Love was elected Chair and Ann Streed was elected Secretary/Treasurer for the year 2001. The Commission will continue to focus on education as one of its priorities this year.
Members formally recognized Bea Nelson's outstanding contributions as Founding Chair of the Human Rights Commission and thanked her for her many years of service. (Bea retired at the end of her term in December 2000.)
David McRoberts was appointed to replace Bea Nelson on the Commission.
The Commission announced the winners of the annual Minnesota Human Rights Essay Contest. First place ($100) was Kelsey Maloney, Second ($75) was Steven Sager, and Third ($50) was Taelyn Coffee. All attend St. Mary's School. The context was open to all sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students in the Morris area. The essay topic was "Choose an article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and write an essay relating the article to an event currently in the local, national or international news." Kelsey Maloney's essay was forwarded to the statewide contest sponsored by the League of Minnesota Human Rights Commissions. In June the Commission learned that Kelsey tied for second place at the state level.
In March, the Commission met with Morris Area School Superintendent Keith Redfield, Elementary Principal Brad Korn, and Elementary Counselor Tammy Roth to discuss human rights issues at the schools (including bullying, conflict resolution, harassment, and diversity), as well as programs and services available to students and teachers. Members of the Commission offered assistance to the district in matters concerning human rights. Among the suggestions discussed was possible district-wide diversity awareness training for the staff.
The Commission co-sponsored, with the Morris Anti-Racism Task Force, a full-day workshop entitled "Dismantling Racism" held on Sunday, March 18, 2001. The workshop was well-attended by about 40 representatives of community organizations, churches, businesses, and members of the public. The facilitator was James Addington. He is co-director of the Minnesota Churches Anti-Racism Initiative, which is operated by the Minnesota, Greater Minneapolis, and St. Paul Area Council of Churches. (The Anti-Racism Task Force in Morris was organized in November 1999 and includes representatives from several area schools and churches.)
The Commission co-sponsored an exhibit entitled Portraits of All Kinds of Families with UMM. The exhibit was displayed for several days in late March and early April at the Morris Public Library, UMM, the Elementary School, and the High School. Public school faculty received interpretative information about the exhibit.
In May, the Morris Sun-Tribune published a front-page interview with Commissioner Lynn Gades, who is disabled. The interview was accompanied by a second article about the Commission. Both were written by Liz Morrison.
In June, the Commission wrote a letter of support for a UMM Minority Student Program grant application to obtain funding to re-establish the ACE program. ACE, which stands for Ambassadors for Cultural Exchange, is a program created by UMM that links UMM minority students with elementary school classrooms. Through several classroom visits, the UMM students establish a relationship with the elementary students by describing their ethnic backgrounds, reading stories, answering questions, etc. During the years that the program has operated, it has been very well-received by participating teachers. The Commission also gathered letters of support for the grant application from School Superintendent Redfield and Elementary Principal Korn.
In July, the Commission learned that the handicapped restroom at the Prairie Inn had been remodeled, in response to Commission request. The Commission had received a complaint in the year 2000 that the handicapped restroom at the motel was too small to accommodate a wheelchair. The Commission had communicated with the manager and had written to the owner, who agreed to rectify the situation.
In October, the Commission co-sponsored diversity training for the staff of the Morris Area Schools. The entire district staff attended the half-day workshop on October 17. It was the first formal diversity training held in the school district. The trainer was Nehrwr Abdul-Wahid of the Diversity Institute, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Co-sponsors of the training were the Morris Anti-Racism Task Force and the Morris Area School District.
In response to citizen request, the Commission discussed the issue of potential cultural and/or language disparities between some members of the public and local law enforcement and other public service providers. The Commission discussed whether adequate translator services were available (e.g., to human service agencies or to the hospital) and whether adequate procedures were in place to assist individuals who may not speak English, who may be recent immigrants, who may be mentally ill, etc., as they move through a law enforcement or social service process. The Commission decided to further investigate the matter.
In response to citizen request, the Commission discussed the City's policy regarding assistance to disabled users of Morris Transit. At issue was whether non-wheelchair riders could be assisted into and out of buses without causing liability problems for the City or the drivers. After learning that assistance could be provided only to wheelchair users and that the drivers cannot leave the buses to assist users, the Commission discussed possible alternatives such as the Senior Volunteer Driver Service offered through the County Coordinator on Aging.
Jody Snow was appointed to replace Lynn Gades on the Commission.
In November, in response to citizen request, the Commission made plans to augment the Morris Area Elementary library's very slim collection of books with multicultural themes. The titles were recommended by Elementary Counselor Tammy Roth and included books on children of various religious and ethnic backgrounds, books on disabled people, and books on tolerance and sharing. The books will be received early in 2002.
During the year 2001, the Commission continued its newspaper series entitled, "Notes From the Morris Human Rights Commission." Articles were published on the following topics: African Americans in Minnesota History, Feature Films (at the Public Library) with Multicultural Themes, Multicultural Children's Books, Fairness in Housing, Tools for Tolerance, Religious Discrimination, and the State Human Rights Campaign.