Jason Wilson, newly elected member of the School District of Clayton’s Board of Education, is the first African-American man to serve on the Board. He strives to improve diversity in Clayton, educate the community on the importance of communication and expose students to an inclusive global community.
Wilson not only cares about students’ experience at Clayton, but also wants to successfully prepare them for the diverse world they will encounter after high school.
Being the first ever African-American member of the Board, Wilson has faced the various unjust tribulations that come with being a minority in today’s society.
Wilson was stopped twice by Clayton police while canvassing for his campaign.
His first encounter with the police occurred as he was leaving a previous board member’s house, and he was told that they assumed he was a solicitor. He had a second encounter with the police weeks later which he decided to video tape and post online.
Wilson was stopped for the second time because he fit the description of a suspicious petitioner in the Clayton neighborhoods.
“In my lifetime I have heard that so many times,” he said, “people are falsely accused, accosted and arrested for something they didn’t do only because they fit the description. This is something that I have always dealt with. I have lots of experience in this area where I have been pulled over because I’m black. It is incidents like these that are exactly how people go to jail, good or bad. It doesn’t matter sometimes.”
Wilson decided to post the video of his interaction with the police to reveal the prevalence and unfairness of racial stereotyping.
“I put the video online and I kind of allowed people to form their own opinions,” Wilson said.
He has received a lot of support from the community in response.
“I [had] met some great people and I didn’t know they were going to be so supportive of me, so that was amazing.”
Experiencing the effects of being an African-American in a predominantly white neighborhood further increased Wilson’s desire to improve diversity and equity in the Clayton community.
Wilson also has two children at the Clayton schools. His oldest son had an incident at Captain Elementary where another student called him a racially-offensive name.
“Intuitively I thought to go to the parents and have a conversation with them about it and get the kids involved so that [the kids] know that they’re not bad people,” Wilson said. “And we wanted to take the blame off them and on us, because they got it from somewhere, right? So that is part of the reason that made me examine more how Clayton is as a diverse population.”
Wilson hopes to prepare students for the real world by increasing the diversity of staff members, training students and staff to communicate effectively, and increasing the inclusivity within Clayton’s culture.
“Kids at Clayton are going to go out into the world and are going to run into someone from a different place, a different culture, or a different ethnicity, and I want to make sure they are prepared for that and are not impeded by a lack of experience and not knowing how to communicate effectively,” Wilson said.
The Clayton School Board has already begun to implement programs in order to achieve its goals regarding equity and diversity.
“We have a committee of teachers that are representatives from each of the schools that come together and have been actively working,” Board President Kristin Redington said. “We have professional development programs for all the new teachers coming in, and they go through mandatory stereotype and bias training with specialists who come to do these programs.”
The Board is also honing in on the racial discrepancies in achievement, analyzing data and why the education gap exists.
Pam Littleton, a member of the District Equity in Education Committee, explains that eliminating racism within schools starts at the level of the Board and staff.
“You can’t blame the students, [and] you can’t blame the students’ parents. You really need to look at the level of instruction and who’s delivering the instruction and what the level of expectation is, not just for all students, but specifically the students of color.”
Wilson, as the first black member of the school board will add a new perspective to the implementation of equity in the schools.
“He’s had various experiences as an African American male and as a business owner that haven’t always been easy. I think it will serve the community very well to have his vision and his wisdom as a part of the Board,” Littleton said, “As far as someone who looks like him, someone who’s had his experiences, someone who has dealt with some of the things she’s dealt with, that has never been present … You have a good Board when you have diverse people on that Board. The more diversity you have on a Board, the better it serves the community and the school system.”