SHELTON — Democrats are calling on city leaders to establish an independent citizen board to review complaints against the police department.

The Shelton Democratic Town Committee urged the creation of a review board and adding curriculum focused on the history of race and racism in America in the school system in the wake of the nationwide protest following the May 25 death of George Floyd while in police custody.

Shelton has played host to two protests over the past week, the most recent a march Saturday from City Hall to the Derby-Shelton Bridge, where those marching in Shelton met with others marching from Derby City Hall.

“We are committed to recruiting candidates who will engage with Shelton’s growing diverse population and we will fight for social, economic and racial justice,” read a DTC statement.

“We encourage the Shelton Board of Education to add the history of race and racism in America to the school curriculum,” the statement read. “We urge the Board of Aldermen to consider establishing via ordinance an independent Citizen's Review Board to review complaints against the police department.”

Mayor Mark Lauretti shot down the idea, saying such a board was unnecessary.

Attempts to reach Board of Aldermen President John Anglace Jr., a Republican, were unsuccessful; requests for comment from the city RTC were not immediately returned.

The DTC statement came after both interim Superintendent Beth Smith and Board of Education Chair Kathy Yolish echoed calls for a discussion on race and racism on the local level.

“As a retired Shelton teacher and now board chair, I feel that the recent protests that have evolved throughout the country needs to be discussed within families as well as the classroom,” said Yolish.

“Children form many questions from a very young age with respect to race and racial differences,” added Yolish. “It is with a strong connection between school and home that a better understanding and appreciation that we are alike in many ways but also different. These differences need to be respected, valued and treasured as being unique.”

Yolish said Shelton schools has paved the way for discussion and education to address diversity issues. She specifically cited the Multi-Cultural Ambassadors Group, the Diversity Club, and SAGA (a gender alliance group), to name a few, at Shelton High.

“As far as curriculum, I believe that the state has mandated that African American and Latino history courses are required to be offered in high school by 2022,” said Yolish.

At Shelton Intermediate School, Yolish said there are also several clubs which address diversity, including GSA, Diversity Ambassadors, Youth to Youth, Best Buddies and the Kindness Club. Additionally, every month a forum of addressing diversity is presented in morning messages and cultural activities and presentations.

At the elementary level, Yolish said cultural diversity programs are presented throughout the year, addressed in social studies, and discussed and celebrated through TESOL/ELL programs.

“I know there is still much work to be done to ensure an environment that celebrates and respects cultural diversity,” said Yolish, “but I believe that we in Shelton are well on our way. I’m sure more will be discussed and worked on in our Teaching and Learning Committee.”

Smith, in a statement released Friday, said she condemns discrimination in every form.

“Our global society is changing rapidly before our eyes,” she said. “Worldwide protests are occurring daily. The senseless murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others cannot and should not be tolerated. These tragedies bring to light the racism and discrimination that is present in societies.”

Smith said the school system’s vision statement calls for the district to prepare students to become responsible, successful citizens of a global society.

“In order to fulfill our vision, as a community, we need to do better,” said Smith. “There are several things we need to work on. We need to ensure that our environments are inclusive, ones that address the biases of our society. We need to validate and address the racial and economic inequities within our society. We need to continue to use education to teach tolerance and acceptance. We need to support our minority students and families.”

Yolish said the Shelton she grew up in and taught in pushed against bias and recognized diversity in a multicultural society.

“I affirm Dr. Smith’s condemnation of discrimination in any manner, endorse her position to validate and address racial and economic inequities within our society and wholeheartedly agree that we must unite as a team devoted to teaching tolerance and acceptance,” said Yolish. “Education is the key to making all students feel supported, valued and worthy of being an integral part of the school community.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com