Dubuque Human Rights Commission responds to recent cross burning

Published: Apr. 18, 2016 at 10:27 PM CDT
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The Dubuque Human Rights Commission aims to use recent cross burning incidents to educate the city's youth about racial issues. The commission discussed the incident at special meeting Monday afternoon.

Police say last week, someone burnt two crudely constructed crosses near the intersection of Washington and 22nd Streets. Police are investigating the cross burning as a hate crime.

The commission decided they want to organize some sort of community wide forum to discuss the current racial climate in Dubuque. They also say discussions about this issue should be mandatory in all Dubuque schools.

During a special meeting, the commission discussed ways to facilitate a community conversation about how race relations in Dubuque. In particular how that relates to crime and police relations.

The commission discussed holding the forum in the downtown or Comiskey Park area to give better access to people who live in those areas.

Some commissioners says students in grades kindergarten through high school are clueless about how serious the cross burning incident was. They say kids are seeing posts about it on social media but they're not talking about the cross burning or related issues in the classroom. Some commissioners say those types of discussions should be mandatory in all schools and at all grade levels.

Commission Member Shirley Templeton Vaughn said, "If it's not mandatory it's not going to happen. I do think it needs to happen throughout the whole school year. Not just once per year. Not just in certain grades. Because there is a lot of peer pressure. And there is a lot of parent pressure. We need to be reminded of how we can live together and get along peacefully. "

Commission members also say students need to be educated on Dubuque's past racial tensions, including the several cross burnings that happened in Dubuque in the early 1990's.