OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- As Utah's minority population continues to grow, educators are looking for new ways to cope with the inevitable friction that comes with the influx of new cultures.
In the past four years, Utah's Hispanic population has grown by 40 percent and the African-American population by 30 percent.Utah's white population grew by just 9 percent, but the racial makeup of Utah's elected school boards, appointed administrators and teaching staffs remains nearly 100 percent white.
Some educators have adjusted to changes, but old racial stereotypes die hard.
During a meeting about racial diversity before the current school year, one teacher from Clearfield High School told her co-workers she believed Latino stereotypes to be accurate. She said nearly all Latino students are gang members who will never amount to much, and that they are frightening because they carry guns.
Educators on the front lines of the battle against racism say it's time to begin infusing more ideas about tolerance, respect and understanding into the classroom. Perhaps later, those students will help the teachers change their own ideas about race.
"I think it will be our young people who force adults to change," said Joan Smith, an executive director in Utah for The National Conference, which educates school communities about diversity.
One of the first steps that needs to be taken, advocates say, is for minorities to have more representation on boards of education and in other policy-making positions.
State Office of Education educational equity director Richard Gomez said more minorities must feel welcome in the arena of public educational discourse.
"This isn't for color balance," Gomez said. "It needs to be for perspective. There ought to be more representation on school boards, and serving on boards isn't a lot of fun. It takes a lot of time."