By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Not In Our Town heard last week that its members need to stand up with another population facing some discrimination in Bowling Green.
During their monthly meeting, Not In Our Town members talked about the need to branch out and go beyond defending diversity in race, religion and sexual orientation. NIOT also needs to stand up in the community for people with different intellectual and developmental disabilities, members agreed.
Emily Dunipace, from the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities, talked about the need for people with differing intellectual abilities to be treated without discrimination in the community.
“They want to be included like anyone else,” Dunipace said.
Last month, after Wood Lane announced plans to open a group home for children with developmental disabilities, they were confronted by some neighbors who had concerns about the group home.
It’s disappointing that people think that way,” said Heather Sayler, a NIOT member whose oldest son uses some services from Wood Lane.
Rev. Gary Saunders, who lives in the general neighborhood of the new Wood Lane group home, said he was disappointed to hear about reluctance of neighbors to welcome the new residents.
Julie Broadwell, community co-chair of Not In Our Town, agreed that the organization is dedicated to defending all populations facing discrimination – including intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“That’s a whole issue we haven’t tapped into,” she said.
The organization discussed the possibility of hosting a forum on the inappropriate use of the “R” (retard) word.
Also during last week’s meeting, Not In Our Town members revisited concerns about the lack of student involvement in NIOT at Bowling Green State University.
NIOT meetings rotate from locations on campus and in the downtown. During last week’s meeting on campus, no students attended. So NIOT members decided that since BGSU students aren’t coming to NIOT meetings, then NIOT will take its members to student groups.
“If they aren’t showing up, we should go to their groups,” Sayler said.
Holly Cipriani, a NIOT member and academic adviser at BGSU, said she would get a list of organizations that NIOT would like to hear from – like the Black Student Union, Latino Student Union, World Student Association, Indian Student Association and Muslim Student Association.
Not In Our Town members want to know if those students feel welcome in the Bowling Green community.
“I think there are a lot of stories that never get anywhere near us,” Saunders said.
It was noted that a black student on campus recently reported that she often feels like “a raisin in white rice.”
That is the “elephant in the room,” Saunders said. “We’re not really reaching out to students effectively.”
The next NIOT meeting will be held Dec. 7, from 3 to 5 p.m., in the City Council chambers in the city administration building on North Church Street.