Moving forward with racial equity at OPRF

Opinion: Columns

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By Mary Bird, John Duffy & Burcy Hines

One View

On behalf of equity allies across our community and the Committee for Equity and Excellence in Education, we express our sincere thanks to Dr. Ammons and Dr. Pruitt-Adams who have guided the drafting of the Racial Equity Policy procedures presented to the District 200 Board of Education on June 25. These procedures include key racial equity goals, specific measures of reporting, accountability, ongoing evaluation, and revision.

The current D200 board and previous boards over the last five years have shown an unprecedented commitment to act on behalf of racial equity. The procedures presented by Dr. Levar Ammons, director of Equity and Student Success, on June 25 help ensure that OPRF High School can realize its varied racial equity goals at a time when we all must be unequivocal, clear, and aggressive in putting an end to historic inequities and institutional racism in education at OPRF.

With board support, OPRF's administration and teachers have advanced racial equity work with teams of trainers and learners around restorative practices; curriculum equity and course restructuring; hiring, respecting, supporting and retaining teaches of color; and advancing institutional and individual understanding of race, identity, and the presence of personal and community bias.


Ending racial inequities

Among the many strengths of the racial equity procedures, we stress the following:

1. Committing to "intentionally act to end racism in all aspects of school community life"

2. Providing a clear procedure for conducting a racial equity analysis using the Racial Equity Assessment Tool (REAT) protocol; and including regular reporting and public access to an archive with details and data on the application of equity analyses

3. Guaranteeing an active role of representatives in the REAT process from groups most impacted by racial inequities

4. Asserting that REAT is central to the curriculum evaluation and revision process

5. Monitoring and improving the culture and environment of the school through annual surveys of students and parents.

6. Providing a process for hearing, responding to, and restoring victims and perpetrators of acts of racial harm through a set of specific Racial Incident procedures

7. Providing for bi-annual meetings and annual reporting of both qualitative and quantitative evidence for reaching the goal of having a faculty and staff that reflects the student body

8. Pledging to work with District 90, District 97, and other local governments to advance community understanding of racial equity, diversity, and inclusion.


Ensuring continued progress

It is urgent that the D200 board end any doubt about the district's commitment to eliminate racial inequities in our school. To do this, we ask you to revise the language contained in the 2019 Racial Equity Policy. The policy adopted on April 25, 2019 states that if racial inequities are found after an equity review process, "the district will consider revision or elimination of the practice, procedure, or program."

The history of racial inequities in education here and elsewhere are replete with moments when schools "considered" how to end racial disparities — the most famous being local actions following the Supreme Court decision in 1954 stating that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional. Then as today, "considering" racial justice in America too often equates to delays, half-hearted measures, or solutions that require little from the dominant white culture while racial inequities and injustices continue.

We believe that "considering" possible action now, more than ever, is woefully and morally unacceptable. Instead, our policy must unequivocally commit to "eliminating inequitable practices, procedures, and programs." Such an outright commitment demonstrates that we really do value the lives of students of color.


Stay involved

As key board members finish their tenure on the board, we offer them special thanks for all they have done to advance racial justice in our school community. Their dedication has been indispensable in putting racial equity work in motion.

Unfortunately, there are those in our community who seek to slow down this work, and even reverse long-awaited racial equity re-structuring of curriculum. In challenging this opposition we beseech equity-focused members of the board to continue helping our community find candidates who are ready to fully continue efforts at racial equity now underway. Lastly, we ask these board members to personally remain a civic voice for racial justice in Oak Park and River Forest.

Mary Bird, John Duffy, and Burcy Hines are members of the Committee on Equity and Excellence in Education and are writing on their behalf.

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Pat Duffy  

Posted: July 9th, 2020 9:16 AM

We add one last point that was not included in this Viewpoint. Students have played a vital role in getting D 200 to adopt a racial equity policy and procedures. For their continued dedication, we express our admiration for and appreciation of OPRF students and their activism. They have reminded us regularly to uphold the adage, "Nothing about us without us." You truly are the future; you are why we stay involved in this work.

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