WESTVILLE – The La Porte Circuit Court’s annual Juvenile Symposium dealt with some of the most sensitive topics in law enforcement today: race, equity and inclusion.

On Saturday, more than 160 stakeholders took part in the symposium at Purdue University Northwest’s Westville campus.

The purpose was to “provide a venue whereby participants from varying disciplines can receive appropriate resources to help prevent juvenile delinquency, abuse, neglect and issues facing families in La Porte County,” according to Chip Cotman, director of La Porte County Juvenile Court Services.

The symposium offers up-to-date training and information “in an attempt to effectively respond to and enhance the knowledge among juvenile justice practitioners through training sessions conducted by national and state presenters who are leaders in their respective field,” Cotman said.

This year’s theme was “The Elephant In The Room: Race, Equity and Inclusion,” and after a welcome by Circuit Court Judge Thomas Alevizos, the opening speaker was Nathaniel Ware, a Michigan City High School student who read “And How Are the Children?” by Patrick T O’Neill.

The symposium offered workshops on “Race Equity and Inclusion Across Indiana, Can We Talk – Seriously?” and “Self-Care Strategies for Human Service Providers.”

Keynote speaker was Lena Tenney, coordinator of public engagement for the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University. The institute directs the facilitation portfolio of the Race and Cognition Program, which includes traveling around the nation to facilitate trainings about implicit bias, structural racism, and being an active bystander, Cotman said.

Tenney is a co-author of the 2017 edition of the Kirwan Institute’s “State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review” publication and a co-creator of the Implicit Bias Module Series online learning platform.

Other presenters included Lun Pieper, staff attorney for the Race & Gender Fairness Commission and Language Access Advisory Committee; Julie Whitman, executive director of the Children’s Commission; Tashi Teuschler, assistant director for the Indiana Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative from the Office of Court Services at the Indiana Supreme Court; Dr. Vanessa Allen-McCloud, president and CEO of the Urban League of Northwest Indiana; and Marybeth Schramlin, owner of A Mindful Place.

The Symposium was funded by a JDAI La Porte County Grant, La Porte County Prosecutor John Lake, United Way of La Porte County, and La Porte County Sheriff John Boyd. NIPSCO was the Gold sponsor and Unity Foundation of La Porter County was the Silver sponsor.

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