District 97 and District 200 adopted racial equity policies this past year — policies that could be as transformative as Oak Park's Fair Housing Ordinance in 1968. Unlike 1968, however, only a few residents spoke against our schools' racial equity policies. There is a growing consensus that we must tackle educational equity with focus and urgency. Community engagement and courageous school boards and administrators have brought us to this important opportunity to achieve equity for all students and families.
It's time to take the next step.
In their policies, both districts acknowledged historical racism that influences our schools. And, for the first time, both noted that advancing racial equity requires transparency and meaningful involvement of families and students of color. Both also acknowledged the importance of using a racial equity tool.
An effective Racial Equity Impact Assessment (REIA) tool lays out a clear process and a set of questions to guide the development, implementation, and evaluation of significant policies, initiatives, professional development, programs, instructional practices, and budget issues to address the racial impacts. An REIA tool can thus reduce, eliminate, and prevent racial discrimination and inequities when, for example, reviewing proposed curriculum or existing disciplinary practices.
We urge administrations of both D97 and D200 to move forward to adopt and utilize a Racial Equity Impact Assessment (REIA) tool. This tool must be in place for school year 2019-2020 to ensure that equity ideals are put into practice.
REIA tool features
Effective racial equity impact assessment tools must include critical features and protocols that have been successfully implemented in schools districts around the nation. These include:
applying the tool to significant decision-making, such as assessing future programs, practices, budgets, policies, hiring, and curriculum;
including meaningful racially and culturally diverse stakeholder engagement throughout the process;
foregrounding race, while considering other salient factors such as socio-economic status, disability, immigration status, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, etc.;
generating alternative options and assessing racial impacts on different communities and stakeholders;
deciding which option maximizes equity without harm to students of color;
including a written rationale for why a chosen action is undertaken; and
providing for effective implementation, documentation, evaluation, public communication and reporting, and appropriate revision.
Our schools must be places where all students and families are assured equity in opportunities to learn and to fully participate within and outside of classrooms. All should experience a welcoming, safe, respectful, and diverse school culture that practices restorative justice. Students should be engaged in rigorous, inclusive, and relevant curricula taught by teachers and support staff who reflect the demographics of the student body. All students must have the opportunity to realize appropriate academic and social-emotional growth.
School administrators and staff are now making decisions that will affect the environment to which our students return next month. Faculty and staff will soon participate in professional development to kick off the new school year. To ensure that our schools' practices match our ideals, we urge that both administrations adopt and begin to utilize REIA protocols in our school districts by the start of the 2019-20 school year. This is a critical step in creating welcoming and effective school communities for all.
Committee for Equity and Excellence in
Oak Park Call to Action (OPCTA)
Suburban Unity Alliance (SUA)
Executive Leadership Team,
D97 Oak Park PTO Diversity Council
Race Conscious Dialogues (RCD)
Burcy Hines, community member
Terry Keleher, community member; D200 parent
Lynn Allen, former director,
D97 Multicultural Resource Center
Wyanetta Johnson, community member
Lois Thiessen Love, community member
Addie Anderson, community member
Grace Gunn, OPRF 2019 grad; former president of OPRF Black Student Union
Jameel Abdur-Rafia, community member;
Kamau "Maui" Jones, OPRF 1999 grad;
artistic director ECHO Theater Collective
Answer Book 2019
To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.
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