District 214 Justice Group Manifesto: Anti-Racist Educational Agenda

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District 214 Justice Group

Published: July 3rd, 2020


Manifesto: Anti-Racist Educational Agenda 

The time for change is NOW


For the past several years, both the African-American Leadership Team and the Racial Equity in Education Committee have worked tirelessly to present District 214 leadership with questions and concerns about equity, discrimination, and systemic racism within the district.  To date, responses from leadership have been infrequent, inadequate, and, at times, entirely dismissive of the aforementioned concerns.  As such,


Preamble:


We find it necessary to speak our truth when during this time there has been a lack of response, acknowledgment, and action plan from the district in terms of the equity issues we are facing in our nation, community, and yes, even District 214. At this time, the district has only acted performatively to the ideas of racial equity and social justice through a litany of committees and teams over the last 20 years with no follow-through. In light of recent events, the response that we did receive from district leadership was disheartening, hurtful, and irresponsible. Although efforts were made in Dr. Schuler’s email to staff, dated June 2, 2020, we feel they came up short; there was no mention of the Black Lives Matter movement, systematic oppression, recent events. Additionally, his email was only shared internally, not with our students, parents, or community. Dr. Schuler’s email mentioned “people from different backgrounds” and “students and staff from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds.” Inadvertently, what was portrayed was that our Black staff and students were not important enough to even mention. It was the “political route” that coddled the majority.

Sadly, this underwhelming response was expected due to the lack of representation of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in ESP, EA, and administrative staff. Regardless of student demographics and the low BIPOC staff percentage in the district, there is a responsibility to acknowledge exactly what is going on in the world and, specifically, who the movement is about.  While the events of recent days may have precipitated the creation of this document, Dr. Schuler’s vague email is yet another example of the district not responding to incidents of racism with direct action.  It is critical to start making real changes now.  


To establish justice for all BIPOC in District 214, we, the District 214 Justice Group, demand the district take the following immediate actions: 

District 214 Essential Action Items:

 

  1. Conducts an external equity audit for the 2020-2021 school year. The results of this audit will be used to inform future instructional and systemic changes on a district and building level, with a review every 3 years.
  2. Provides anti-racist professional development to all staff and administration.
    1. Provide Beyond Diversity (BD) training to ALL employees of District 214,
      including all BOE members by 2022, with renewal training every 4 years
    2. Designate funds each year for new employees to attend the BD training
    3. Designate a minimum of 5 employees per building in the district to go through BD facilitation training to serve as diversity coaches in each building
    4. Allocate one day per quarter for ALL staff to attend Racial Affinity Spaces facilitated by diversity coaches
    5. Designate 2 Seeking Education Equity and Diversity (SEED) trainers per building, along with 2 administrators, and 27 hours per school year for all interested staff members
    6. Provide Restorative Practices professional development for ALL staff members as needed
    7. Reassess professional development practices every 3 years to ensure quality standards are maintained
  3. Creates positions to lead equity and anti-racism work on both a district and building level.
    1. Director of Equity—District Admin/Cabinet Position
    2. Assistant Director of Equity—District Admin Position
    3. FTE for staff members per building serving as Equity liaisons— Administrator (1),
      EA (1 per department), ESP (3), and CMA positions (1), with at least half BIPOC

  4. Implements and integrates anti-racist goals.
    1. The district must have an anti-racist goal in the Board of Education policy, all
      administration evaluations, and EA evaluations, that are public and transparent.
    2. These goals would inform and guide the formation of district policy curriculum and hiring.
    3. The district will report out on progress towards the goals publicly on quarterly updates with a full report on a yearly basis.
    4. These goals will be developed in collaboration with representatives of the District 214 Justice Group.
  5. Outlines and implements a strategic plan for review of racist policies and practices by
    1. Developing and implementing anti-racist and decolonized curricula across ALL
      subjects
      i. Incorporate African American history across all subject-areas that go beyond learning about the enslavement of African people and the Civil Rights Movement
      ii. Remove materials, such as literature and textbooks, that reinforce racist institutions or assumptions and/or promotes the white savior narrative
      iii. Produce curricula that amplify BIPOC voices and experiences
      iv. Create new courses that provide student choice for learning about specific BIPOC history and literature
      v. Provide professional development and resources for teachers to create curricula that are anti-racist, inclusive for all students, and honor intersectionality
    2. Observing Juneteenth as a non-attendance school holiday and adding it to the district calendar
    3. Revising dress code policies which
      i. Ensure the district dress code does not discriminate against students with
      different cultural backgrounds
      ii. Prohibit violent, racist, sexist, or xenophobic graphics on clothes, which are an indirect way of bullying and intimidation, and eliminate a welcoming environment that the district must ensure for all students.
    4. Using information provided from the equity audit and training, create a task force
      to revise and create equitable grading practices, placement, and opportunities
      within student schedules
    5. Facilitating improved communication between stakeholders (parents, students,
      staff, community, etc.) by
      i. Providing all communication in various languages to meet the needs of our diverse community
      ii. Designating additional funds to support needed translation services in each building
    6. Committing to inclusive school communities that represent and respect the voices of all parents, students, staff, and community members
  6. Reexamine the roles and responsibilities of School Resource Officers (SRO), security staff, and additional police presence in schools.
    1. Include ALL SRO, administrators, and security staff in BD and restorative justice training
    2. Reevaluate placement of SRO in each school
  7. Educate, empower, and support students in equity and anti-racism work.
    1. Support Students Organized Against Racism (SOAR) programs at each building
    2. Train two paid sponsors in anti-racist work per building for SOAR
    3. Create and support Affinity groups/spaces for students during the day

Conclusion:


As described in ISBE’s equity statement, “Illinois has an urgent and collective responsibility to achieve educational equity by ensuring that all policies, programs, and practices affirm the strengths that each and every child brings within their diverse backgrounds and life experiences, and by delivering the comprehensive supports, programs, and educational opportunities they need to succeed.”


The June 17th, 2020, ISBE Board Minutes also states in a Resolution Affirming the State Board’s Commitment to Eliminate Racial Injustice that it, “Encourages all Illinois public school boards to join with us in a commitment to critically examine policies and practices with a racial equity lens, eliminate racial injustice and, as an important message to their communities, adopt and publicly post resolutions affirming that commitment.” 


In addition, page eight of the ISBE Transition Joint Guidance document calls for schools to approach Phase 4 guidance through the lens of equity, and that educators must: “Recommit to eliminating all forms of racism in our school policies. We must be available and open to hearing students’ concerns. We must root our curricula in the context of what students see in the world around them. We must value difference.”

 

We consider this manifesto to be a living document. We also request that we receive quarterly updates as well as an end of the school year report on the progress and accomplishments of the aforementioned manifesto points. We ask that this be done through a written statement submitted to a body of social justice educators who we have selected as representatives. 


We believe that this manifesto must be enacted immediately in order to create an environment where justice is valued over the status quo. The assumption that racism does not exist in D214 is simply not true and must be addressed immediately. It is time to make history that future generations will celebrate.  


This document will be shared with students, families, community stakeholders, and media.

We request an initial written response to this document within a reasonable amount of time.

True anti-racism work is ongoing; it is a process, not a product.