D128 establishes new racial equity policy

On March 15, Policy 7:12 Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion was adopted by the D128 Board of Education. 

The policy outlines 11 different actions the district is committing to, such as hiring diverse staff, enabling access to higher-level coursework and equitably distributing resources. The policy also includes metrics as a way of maintaining accountability, by requiring the principals and superintendent to report back to the Board on a regular basis. 

Ms. Amy Christian, one of the Equity Coordinators for VHHS, provided an example of how the district plans on measuring progress for their first commitment—ensuring that D128 schools are a place where all students, their families and the community feel safe, welcome and valued.

“We’re going to be using that Panorama survey from a couple of weeks ago in order to see to what extent do students feel that they belong on campus… We want to see where there are gaps and improve,” Ms. Christian said. 

Along with student belonging, the policy seeks to improve inclusion in regards to both the curriculum and staff. 

“My kids would come home and say ‘in history, we’re learning these things, but they never talked about a person of color that they were learning about or a book by a POC,” Ms. Madeleine Powell, VHHS dean and writing committee member, said. “We really have to make sure that [students] are seeing themselves in the learning.” 

She went on to describe how getting involved in the writing for this policy came from personal motivation, with George Floyd growing up 15 minutes from where she did fueling her desire to become more involved in the community. 

Other staff members who worked on the policy also found personal experience driving their contributions to the bill. Ms. Denise Fuentes, the CRC Secretary, recalls being the only student of color in her AP courses and activities and how that helps her empathize with students today. 

“I sat in for Ms. Young’s class and said something in Spanish, and this student on Zoom was like ‘she gets it,’ and that really tugged at my heart. Of course I get it,” Fuentes said. 

The need for this racial equity policy stems from both data analysis and the lack of district policy addressing racial issues. 

“When you disaggregate the data in our district, we notice that a lot of disparities happen along racial lines. We also have a policy that addresses socioeconomic status and gender inequity, [but] we [didn’t] have one on racial equity,” Ms. Tara Young, the other VHHS Equity Coordinator, said. 

The writing process began with reading other districts’ policies and then bringing in all sorts of voices, from student representatives to community members, to gather ideas. After multiple rounds of discussion and tweaking, a writing team consisting of board members, administrators and the equity coordinators were tasked with putting it all together, according to Board member Mr. Don Carmichael.

He also remarked on some of the difficulties that came with discussions on such a sensitive topic.

“It’s really hard to talk about race. I’m a white, middle-aged man, so I don’t know the experiences of people of a different race… I have my own life experiences, and that’s all I can bring to the table,” Carmichael said. 

While tackling issues like race are incredibly abstract and challenging, Ms. Powell is happy with the direction that the district is going in. 

“I’ve seen a lot of growth in the district… At one point, I was the [one of the] only staff of color and now we’ve really started to diversify,” Powell said. “We’ve had good leadership that is open to making this a better place and getting this policy written, and I’m super proud to be a part of D128.”