Holston United Methodist Women stand up for racial equity in schools

Holston United Methodist Women stand up for racial equity in schools

Holston Conference United Methodist Women lead a delegation of members to a Knox County School Board meeting on Feb. 7. From left to right: Jamie Singer, Alice Nichols, Donna Mosby, Susan Daffron, Patricia Bellingrath, and Danielle Meyers.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. --Twenty-one United Methodist Women attended a Knox County School Board meeting Feb. 7  to show support for a new equity policy they hope will interrupt the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

Wearing red clothing and their church name badges, the women met at Church Street United Methodist Church and walked together to the City County Building in downtown Knoxville. The 21 members represented the Tennessee Valley and Smoky Mountain Districts of Holston Conference, including United Methodist Women of 29 congregations.
UMW represent at Feb. 7 school board meeting.

Donna Mosby, president of Holston Conference United Methodist Women (UMW), said they were responding to a call from God and their organization’s principles.

“As mothers, grandmothers, and daughters, we are called to be advocates for justice in our community,” Mosby said in a letter to the school board. “One of our current priorities is to champion efforts that interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline. The school-to-prison pipeline refers to school policies and procedures that drive many school-aged children, particularly Black girls and other children of color, into a pathway that begins in school and ends in the criminal justice system.”

The equity policy under consideration by the school board is the work of the Knox County Schools Alliance for Educational Equity, identifying seven challenges to address:

1. Decreasing chronic absenteeism
2. Reducing disproportionate suspension and expulsion rates
3. Increasing students' early post-secondary opportunities
4. Providing equitable access to effective teachers
5. Recruiting and retaining a diverse teaching force
6. Embedding cultural awareness in school practices
7. Partnering with community allies

According to Mosby, she and other UMW leaders were inspired to advocate for racial equity after organizing a seminar on Jan. 11. The online seminar, "Do No Harm: Understanding and Challenging the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” was attended by about 100.

“The focus was to gain knowledge, ponder ways to get involved and to actively engage in ways that would work towards dismantling systems and institutions that sustain these harmful practices to children and youth,” Mosby said.

Mosby credited Jamie Singer, a member of the Smoky Mountain District and mother of a daughter in a Knox County high school, “for following the status of the equity policy with the school board members and bringing the matter to my attention.”

The equity policy proposed to the Knox County School Board was not passed but referred back to the policy committee for review and clarification.

Founded in 1869, the United Methodist Women is the largest denominational faith organization for women with about 800,000 members internationally. The Holston Conference UMW includes about 800 members in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and North Georgia. UMW provides its members with opportunities for spiritual growth, leadership development, transformative education, service, and advocacy. 


Annette Spence

Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newsletter.