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Cuyahoga County's Juvenile Court training being called offensive by some

Union rep: 'Racially tone deaf'
Posted at 5:10 PM, Nov 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-01 18:16:15-04

CLEVELAND — The title of an upcoming training session offered by Cuyahoga County's Juvenile Court is being called offensive by some.

"The minute I read that I cringed, my eye started twitching" said Colin Sikon, a field representative for Labor's Local 860 which represents about 100 court employees. "I couldn't believe that was a title."

Sikon said he started receiving complaints earlier this week after a flier advertising the training titled, "Working with Black Males: Addressing Trauma, Aggression and Apathy" was posted inside juvenile court. So far, Sikon said he's received six or seven complaints from union members.

"I think the way it's worded insinuates that these are black male issues when, in fact, these issues run the gamut of every demographic depending on the context," Sikon said.

He believes the word "black" could have been replaced with "at-risk."

But Danielle Sydnor, President of the Cleveland Branch of the NAACP, disagrees.

"I actually don't have a problem with the title," Sydnor said.

She believes teens in Cuyahoga County's juvenile justice system do bring a special set of traumas brought on by events like the Tamir Rice shooting.

Sydnor believes the uneasiness caused by the training's title goes deeper, citing concerns she's heard from court employees about a lack of trust in juvenile court leadership.

"That's a cry for help and that's a reason for them to have a conversation and say 'Listen, we're trying to get to the meat of having conversations about these issues. We know they're tough and uncomfortable, give us some feedback on what we could have done differently,'" Sydnor said.

LaToya Logan, who's listed as the speaker scheduled to put on Monday's training, defended the program.

Logan said she's presented it at over 100 conferences, adding, "anyone that has an issue with the title, it's because of their own implicit biases."

Sikon looked into the program after he received complaints and believes it does have value. He's concerned it's message will be missed because of words that he fears will drive a deeper wedge between the court and its workers.

"In this case we have people who work at the juvenile detention center in detention, in probation, and court clerks who don't feel really safe or great in their job when they see things like this," Sikon said. "They feel denigrated."

A spokeswoman for juvenile court referred questions about the training to Logan when contacted for comment.