The Oak Park and River Forest District 200 school board voted unanimously on May 24 to adopt a series of recommendations made by the district’s Culture, Climate and Behavior committee.
One of recommendations is for the committee to become a standing board committee that meets regularly.
The committee was created in January 2016 and included board members, administrators, faculty, staff, students, parents and community members who met twice a month to discuss, and recommend to the board, ways to improve OPRF’s culture, particularly as it relates to discipline and equity.
Some of the committee’s recommendations, such as the implantation of a revised dress code that “supports students’ self-expression and treats all students equitably,” have already been taken up by the board.
The D200 school board voted unanimously to change the Code of Conduct so that students are no longer prohibited from wearing hats and hoodies inside of the building.
As part of a series of general recommendations, the committee also suggested the district study “OPRF outcomes and make recommendations on interventions with the goal of eliminating race as a predictor of discipline infractions.”
In addition, the committee recommended that the district “develop and/or approve metrics relevant to programs” that it recommends and that the board approves, assess “the efficacy” of how those programs are implemented and provide an “accountability report” to the school board each quarter.
Apart from those general recommendations, the committee also made a series of more specific recommendations — each with detailed action steps — that are classified in groupings. Those groupings include: faculty and staff voice and innovation, community voice and connections, student and family voice and belonging, and student tardiness.
In the area of faculty and staff voice, the committee recommends that the district implement “school-wide restorative practices,” and “recruit and retain diverse staff” who, along with all employees, are also offered “additional support” so that they feel more “welcome and included.”
Some detailed action steps in that area include retaining a “restorative justice professional to complete an inventory and evaluation of restorative practices” at OPRF and assembling volunteers to work with that professional to “develop specific restorative justice initiatives” in the 2018-19 school year.
In the area of community voice and connection, the committee recommends that the district host at least two town halls each year, on or off campus, on matters determined important by the superintendent or school board. Another recommended action item is for the district to “record meetings of importance” and post them on OPRF’s website.
In the area of student and family voice, the committee recommends the creation of a planning committee that will be responsible for designing a “festive, inclusive Student Activity Fair similar to those on college campuses” and redesigning the Welcome Center “to create a more welcoming experience for students and visitors.”
And in the area of student tardiness, the committee recommends that the district “research the root causes of student tardiness” by administering an annual survey and addressing racial disparities in OPRF’s student tardy data, “which shows that African American students are overrepresented in the ‘late to class’ and ‘five to more’ tardy categories.”