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Kitsap reports on human rights activities

"Kitsap complaints to the state Human Rights Commission were down to 22 in 1999, compared to 35 in 1998.But that doesn't mean violations are down, said Human Rights Commission district manager Barbara Stroughter. All the dip in numbers means is more cases were handled in 1998.Stroughter reported on the state of Kitsap human rights to 16 members of the local human rights activist community at the opening of a state Human Rights Commission meeting held in the Silverdale Hotel Feb. 24. The state organization was in town for its annual review of human rights activity in the area.Stroughter said the numbers reflect a need for a larger presence on behalf of the state commission. As we increase our outreach activities in these areas, I feel that the number will go up.Complaints to the commission originating out of Kitsap were mostly employment complaints - 17 out of 22 - a trend consistent with the rest of the state, Stroughter said.Also consistent was the basis for the complaints: more people complained about discrimination based on disability than for race, sex and national origin combined.The biggest discrimination case in Kitsap that the commission handled originated in Poulsbo, where former Poulsbo Police Sgt. Marilou Duncan settled a sex-discrimination complaint for $149,000.Stroughter said the outcome was extraordinary. I've settled a number of cases and I've never settled one for $150,000, she said.After the Human Rights Commission reviewed their own activity in the county, local human rights advocates gave reports on their activities and initiatives over the past year.Kitsap County Council for Human Rights Chairwoman Deborah Horn was first up, describing 1999, the council's 10th year in existence, as especially momentous.Horn said the council worked on education, outreach and advocacy in the past year, naming the May youth rally and December conference as major accomplishments.In terms of outreach, Horn said the council built bridges to the county Domestic Violence Task Force and other county organizations, like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.Horn didn't mention that the Human Rights Council was refused membership to the regional human rights advocate Northwest Coalition for Human Dignity. The Northwest Coalition cited the county organization's refusal to reprimand council member Jim Craswell for attacking it as reason for the rebuke.After Horn's presentation, State Human Rights Commissioner Ellis H. Casson asked the council why they didn't participate more in the county Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.I heard from (former Bremerton Ebenezer AME pastor) Cleveland Williams that it wasn't as well attended as in past years, Casson said. It seems to me, because of your outreach and what you stand for, that you should have been a prime mover.Former Human Rights Council Chairwoman Tamra Ingwaldson answered that although she went, the council was not invited to support the event. Historically, the council has never been a formal partner, she said.Following Horn was the Kitsap Human Rights Network, an independent advocate for human rights in the county. New chairman Jerry Hebert and former chairwoman Robin Carson laid out their organization's ambitious plans to address racism in the county.Of particular concern to the network is the recent incident at a South Kitsap High School basketball game where fans taunted the primarily African American players from Foss High School.Hebert outlined the Network's plans to work with county school districts, police departments and officials to counter the South Kitsap incident and other 1999 incidents.Following the Network, the NAACP gave its first report to the Commission.Casson, a former Bremerton NAACP chair, said he was pleased to see the Bremerton chapter still up and running, even though its membership rolls are low.Don't be discouraged, Casson told the NAACP representatives.Fellow Commissioner Rudy Vasquez echoed Casson when he addressed all three groups. I'm really impressed with the agendas you've taken on, he said. You should be commended."

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