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Arkansas MLK Commission hosts training in response to racist school bullying

Paul Davis, a representative of The Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr Commission, speaks to students in Lavaca.
Paul Davis of the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission spoke to students in a Lavaca school gym about the negative impacts of bullying.

In an effort to address racist bullying, a west Arkansas school district hosted a training summit for students, teachers and staff.

Lavaca Public Schools is working with the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission in an effort to reduce incidences of bullying. The district hosted a nonviolence youth summit featuring Kevin Kelly and Paul Davis, a pastor from Fort Smith and the commission’s representative for Arkansas’ third congressional district.

Superintendent Steve Rose said the event was one of the district’s responses to an act of racist bullying on a Lavaca school bus earlier this year. A video posted on YouTube shows students taunting a classmate, chanting “Rosa Parks” and “Black Lives Matter.”

“We had that unfortunate incident in February. We reached out to the Department of Education and they are basically the ones that put us on the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission,” Rose said.

The commission participates in events across the state to address racism and to promote the messages of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

During the nonviolence youth summit in Lavaca, Davis spoke to a gymnasium full of students about the impact of bullying.

“All bullying does is just push that talent aside — push it aside, where [the victims] don’t want to live, don’t want to be a part of life, don’t want to be around their friends. They don’t want to be around anyone, because they feel that they are not worthy. What I’m going to tell you this morning: each and every one of you are worthy,” Davis said.

Students were asked to apologize to those they’ve mistreated and take a pledge to stop bullying and report cases of it to authorities. Rose said he felt the message was well-received by students.

David Monteith worked as a reporter for KUAR News between 2015 and July 2022.