To the Editor:

On May 3, Bowling Green Council introduced two amendments to the city’s unlawful discrimination codes. The amendments are intended to address recommendations that arose following the violent hate crime committed against two young Latinos at the Waffle House in March 2019.

Following the attack, La Conexion held a series of community conversations to listen to members of the community about their experiences and ideas for a better future. During these conversations, many residents shared their own experiences with hate, prejudice and discrimination in Bowling Green. Community members also expressed a desire for businesses to take on more responsibility for ensuring that employees have training and policies to respond appropriately when a discrimination incident occurs.

Over the next two years, La Conexion formed a policy committee to address the concerns.

Members brought recommendations to council members that ultimately resulted in the proposed changes to the codes. These changes include:

Adding ethnicity, source of income and immigration status as new protected classes

Including the concept of “actual” and “perceived” classes

Improving accountability and transparency in the reporting system by establishing a panel to handle complaints. The panel expands this system from the city administrator to also include a council member, as well as the president of the Human Relations Commission (or their designee).

However, one of the committee’s main recommendations remains unaddressed.

The committee has asked council to create a liability for businesses which do nothing or fail to take reasonable steps, such as having policies and training, when discrimination by customers/patrons happens on their watch. Under the current law, businesses can ignore such discrimination.

This jeopardizes the safety of customers and employees and will continue to be legally permissible unless we as a community change it. It is important to note that La Conexion, in collaboration with Bowling Green State University, worked with police to incorporate curriculum on identifying and handling incidents of hate into their existing training for late night establishments. This is free training.

The third reading of the proposed amendments is expected at the June 7 council meeting. The policy committee is seeking statements and support from the public. Written testimony can be submitted to council via the contact information on the city website. To testify before council, you are strongly encouraged to reach out to La Conexion’s Policy Committee at laconexionimmigrantsolidarity@gmail.com.

Beatriz Maya

Director of La Conexión