Monday, April 21, 2008
City Attorney’s Office Utilizes Animals to Teach Lessons on Prejudice
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
Two Deputy Los Angeles City Attorneys and four dogs embarked on a unique mission to teach inner city students about prejudice, discrimination, and respect on Friday.
Students at Markham Middle School in Watts attended a presentation organized by School Safety Specialist Michelle McGinnis and conducted by Animal Protection Unit Supervising Attorney Robert Ferber, featuring disabled animals and stigmatized breeds he had adopted as pets when they were unable to find homes.
“The purpose of the program is bringing animals that were the victims of different types of discrimination to teach children about diversity and respect for our differences.”
As the children interacted with the dogs, Ferber asked them to identify the traits that marked the dogs as unique, then asked if these differences between the dogs meant there was something “wrong” with them.
The students responded with a resounding chorus of nos.
“That’s messed up that no one wanted to adopt” the dogs, seventh grader Ricardo Hidalgo said. “They’re cute. They’re cool.”
Classmate Areli Clemente added:
“I would like to adopt them…. There’s nothing wrong about them. It’s not the way they look, it’s the way they are.”
Teacher Richardo Esquivel said he loved the idea of using animals to teach his students about prejudice. Due to the school’s location and fully minority enrollment, the students are “in an environment that’s very hostile” he opined, “and the kids are very hostile to each other.”
He said he was hoping his students would come away from the program with “more tolerance and openness, and awareness to peoples’ feelings.”
McGinnis pointed out that the school’s students live “under siege” each day, because most come from the four federally funding housing projects surrounding the school, in an area contested by seven separate gangs.
The presentation was the latest feature of a program instituted by Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo and his office to create a safer school environment at Markham and to serve as a blueprint for other troubled schools.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company