Dr. Kevin McGowan on Walking the Line Between
Security and Inclusivity

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In our recent virtual event, Dr. Kevin McGowan shared how he chose to have an open conversation with his whole community about school safety and a plan to put police foot patrols in buildings. By hearing beyond the community’s white majority population and including the voices of underrepresented groups, Kevin made a decision that worked for everyone. Here are our top five thoughts from his talk. We hope you’ll find them helpful when working on similar issues in your district.

On being vulnerable and opening a difficult conversation

“It was a question of being vulnerable and saying ‘it’s not working for all the members of our school.’ I think it’s just being in touch and recognizing that underrepresented groups and everybody who’s here should have an equal voice in the conversation.”

On the value of a two-way discussion

“It won’t just be about saying yes or no. It’ll be about people saying ‘here’s how I feel about it.’ And for their friends and neighbors to engage in a two-way discussion. They’re not just offering feedback, they’re at the same time receiving a significant amount of feedback. It’s not filtered through people interpreting it but a real, live ‘here’s how my friends and neighbors feel.’”

On creating a safe space for people to share

“In a way that’s very powerful because it’s not one person shouting over another. It’s not people with a microphone and podium where only extroverts get their words in. It’s everyone. And the anonymity of it allows people to be much more vulnerable.”

On letting people learn from each other

“This idea of being in an exchange helped so much because it forced our community to look at itself and to reflect on its own behaviors and its own implicit bias. Because people had to engage in other people’s thinking and see these comments and then rate them, they saw the pain that had been caused to their friends and neighbors and it mattered to them.”

On shifting perspectives through open conversation.

“There was no negative feedback from our majority, our white community, saying why did you take patrols out of buildings. It feels to me as though, because they saw those comments and they saw that pain first-hand, they have somehow shifted their mindset around this.”