Disrupt. That’s the key word in the draft of a first-ever policy on equity being considered in Oak Park’s District 97 public elementary schools.

The district “seeks to disrupt societal and historical inequities and eliminate disparities based on student status.” That’s how it reads in a December memo from a policy review team working on a policy that will eventually make it to the full school board. 

Oak Park has been giving lip service to matters of race for decades, since racial integration first become an expressed goal way back in the 1960s. Always, though, integration was on the terms of the white established power structure. And while bold and progressive choices were made in our schools, the version of history coming out of that era in Oak Park reads heroically — if you are white.

It has been a slow and painful road for key institutions in this village to acknowledge that all the years they’ve been taking bows for their good intentions, they have been running schools rife with institutional racism baked in. We recall the OPRF school board member a generation back just sputtering with rage at the charge that his beloved school was, in fundamental ways, racist.

As we’ve noted over the past two years, both of our public school systems in Oak Park are in a new place. Credit voters who have elected school boards that have actively embraced equity as the single most important goal. Credit those school boards for hiring superintendents — Carole Kelley at D97 and Joylynn Pruitt-Adams at the high school — who are committed to the core to transform the culture and the practices of these schools. 

We have also recently touted the bold efforts to tackle equity at the more affluent and less diverse River Forest District 90 schools. 

Incremental change is of little value in this full-tilt battle. That’s why it is so critical that the equity policy taking shape in D97 starts with disruption. Bring it on.

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