In January, LeAnn Love was reelected Chair and Ann Streed was reelected Secretary/Treasurer for the year 2002. Commissioners agreed that education of both young people and the general public would again be a priority for 2002.
Commissioners Ann Streed and Jody Snow took the lead in organizing curricular and extra-curricular activities for grades 7-12 in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, which was January 21. (In past years, there had been little formal recognition of the holiday in the school.) Response was favorable from students, staff, and members of the public (including some who had visited the school to attend sporting events and saw various displays.
The Commission sent a formal request to the Morris Area school board asking that the school district observe Martin Luther King, Jr., Day by making it a school holiday beginning in 2003. (In 2002 classes were held on M.L.K. Jr. Day.)
The Commission announced the winners of their annual Minnesota Human Rights Essay Contest. First place ($100) was Stephanie Lienemann, Second ($75) was Meghan Campbell, and Third ($50) was Kelsey Maloney. All attend St. Mary's School. The context was open to all sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students in the Morris area. Lienemann's essay was forwarded to the statewide contest sponsored by the League of Minnesota Human Rights Commissions. Stephanie's essay received an Honorable Mention at the statewide level in a field of 111 entries.
In March two Commissioners participated in the interview process for a new Diversity Community Outreach Program Coordinator at UMM. This three-year position is intended to strengthen and support diversity activities within the community as well as on the UMM campus.
Also in March, the Commission completed its purchase of books for the Elementary school library. (This project started in late 2001 in response to a citizen who had observed that the Elementary library had few books with multicultural themes.) Most of the books purchased by the Commission were chosen by Elementary Counselor Tammy Roth. The books focused on children of various religious and ethnic backgrounds, disabled people, and on tolerance and sharing.
Several Commissioners were guests at the World Touch Cultural Heritage Week Recognition Dinner at UMM in March.
The Commission invited Morris Police Chief Jim Beauregard and Stevens County Sheriff Randy Willis to attend the May meeting. Beauregard and Willis updated the Commission on policies and procedures concerning human rights issues. Beauregard, who had recently attended a hate crime response and prevention program, suggested that the Commission help promote community awareness of law enforcement's "zero tolerance" policy regarding hate crimes. Beauregard and Willis also described their agencies' procedures to provide emergency assistance for non-English speaking members of the public, including language translation services. (This meeting was part of the Commission's follow-up of a 2001 citizen request that the Commission explore whether local law enforcement and public services are well-equipped to assist individuals who may not speak English, who may be recent immigrants, who may be mentally ill, etc.)
Also discussed at the May meeting was an alleged gay bias crime that occurred against UMM students in April 2002. In May the Commission submitted a press release on the incident to the Morris Sun-Tribune, which declined to print it. In May and June Commissioners monitored the investigation of the incident through contact with UMM and City of Morris police.
In July the Commission met with UMM and Morris police officers, the City Attorney, the Mayor, and UMM faculty, students, and staff to discuss April's alleged bias crime. The details of the alleged crime, the ongoing investigation, and community response to the incident were all discussed. The Commission learned that the City Attorney's office and both police departments were rigorously investigating and surveying options for prosecution. Additional investigative strategies were discussed. It was also the consensus that a group would form to develop community responses to the incident.
There was no official change in Commission membership during 2002. In June 2002, however, Walter Fischer began to regularly attend Commission meetings. Fisher started in June as Diversity Community Outreach Program Coordinator at UMM and will be working with the Commission on various initiatives.
The Commission launched a Morris Human Rights Commission web site in June 2002. The web site is accessed from the City of Morris' home page: https://ci.morris.mn.us.
In September Ann Streed and Jody Snow attended the League of Minnesota Human Rights Commissions annual statewide conference. Streed and Snow learned that, in comparison to other Human Rights Commissions in Minnesota, the Morris Commission has been quite active. The Commission decided to increase participation in statewide activities and to share with other cities its projects in Morris.
In September the Commission met with UMM faculty and students who are interested in GLBT issues. April's gay bias incident, the ongoing investigation, and possible community responses were among the topics discussed. The Commission indicated a willingness to work with members of the campus community and the Diversity Community Outreach Program Coordinator to begin community discussion of GLBT issues.
In November 2002 the Commission held an hour-long teleconference with Mort Ryweck of the League of Minnesota Human Rights Commissions. The Commission and Ryweck discussed the Commission's goals, organizational structure, past projects, and strategies for the future.
The Commission continued its newspaper series, "Notes From the Morris Human Rights Commission." During the year 2002, articles were published on the following topics: African American Students at the West Central School of Agriculture in Morris, the Annual Native American Powwow at UMM, Mental Health and Civil Rights, Latinos in Minnesota, and the American Indian Boarding School at Morris. All articles in the series are posted on the Commission's web site.
Minnesota Human Rights Day was observed on December 6, 2002.