In an effort to end discrimination within their respective school districts, officials in Midlothian and Grand Prairie announced steps toward that end recently.
Midlothian ISD Diversity Initiatives
Initiatives announced by the MISD include:
- Leveraging the MISD Diversity Council to recommend policy changes for board action.
- Improving safety reporting procedures for any MISD staff, students or parents who may experience or witness any form of discrimination.
- Seeking a request for qualifications for consultation services to audit curriculum to ensure they are culturally responsive for students.
“Discrimination will not be tolerated in MISD. I want to be clear – I will not accept any form of racism or discrimination in our classrooms or school buildings,” Midlothian Superintendent Lane Ledbetter said.
The MISD Diversity Council will work to review, modify, and recommend changes to the student code of conduct, handbook and professional development for the 2020-21 school year. The council will bring forward recommendations for action to the school board at its July 20 meeting.
The request for qualifications will allow MISD to seek experts in auditing curriculum and teaching practices to ensure more robust strategies for culturally responsive learning environments and assignments. This audit is the second step in MISD’s cultural proficiency journey following the culturally responsive teaching training that occurred last school year with all teachers and staff.
The district is also working on modifying the three-year-old Crisis Link on its website. The modification will allow any student, staff member, or parent to anonymously report if they have witnessed or experienced any racial discrimination in MISD. Currently, the Crisis Link allows students, parents, and staff to report any concerns related to self-harm or harming others. School district officials say the link has been a successful tool for students seeking help.
Zero tolerance for discrimination
Ledbetter reiterated there will be zero tolerance for racism and discrimination within MISD, referencing comments from citizens’ letters read at a recent board meeting by President Matt Sanders.
“The stories shared were heartbreaking and unacceptable. As a public educator committed to serving all children, I was incredibly saddened by the experiences they shared,” Ledbetter said.
Midlothian resident Symphony Lowe expressed relief at the decision by the district.
“It was as if Midlothian was waiting to see if this would blow over and maybe they wouldn’t have to address the racial tension in the world – and certainly not in our community,” she said. “But then a burst of voices new and old began to arise. #BLM (Black Lives Matter) protests and marches started to sweep the city. A diverse group of residents formed and started speaking out.
“Dr. Ledbetter’s public comment on race, diversity, inclusion, justice and equality in our school district is definitely a step in the right direction. Trust has been broken between the community and the district. The district needs to prove they have heard us and are willing to work with us to make real, lasting changes – not just checking diversity and inclusion boxes.”
Lowe said she wants to see the district commit to hiring more diverse teachers. For MISD to develop a position on racial equality, hold teachers and staff accountable with ongoing anti-racism and anti-bias training. Also, to create a district wide system to report racial incidents, and take swift, meaningful action.
“Then we can truly be #MISDProud,” she said. “Until then, our community will be watching the district and the school board, and we will continue to hold them accountable. Yes, I’m encouraged about the steps the district has stated it will make. I’ll be even more encouraged when changes are actually implemented.”
Grand Prairie ISD Forms Racial Equity Committee
At a recent called meeting, the Grand Prairie School Board voted unanimously to adopt a sweeping resolution that commits to a call for equity and cultural bias training, as well as the formation of a Racial Equity Committee comprised of board-appointed community members and at least two board members.
“This resolution is about action,” GPISD Board President Aaron King said. “Our board is committed to modeling behaviors and practices that will ensure we’re part of the larger solution for our students, their families, our staff, and community.”
The resolution states the board stands in solidarity with its students and community to declare that the lives of Black students and Black people matter. It goes on to clarify in a unified board comment that the declaration “does not negate the commitment to serve all students but rather reaffirms the Board’s commitment to addressing the disparities and inequity of different student groups.”
Superintendent Linda Ellis said, “The resolution the board unanimously adopted indicates that from all facets of the organization, we are committed to making change.”
Rhonda Brown-Crowder, PhD, citizen and parent, praises the resolution and actions of GPISD.
“As the parent of a Black son and GPISD student, I couldn’t be more proud of our GPISD superintendent, board and leaders. In passing this resolution, the district has shown that it has the courage to lead and confront tough racial issues and biases head-on, and clearly understands the importance of the inclusion of its Black students and families in the district learning platform.
“Their actions show they are not just talking about change but are holding themselves and our entire student population accountable to this change.”
Racial Equity Committee formed
Brown-Crowder noted that the formation of the Racial Equity Committee, with the involvement of members from the community, is beneficial not only to the 17.5 percent of Black GPISD students, but to all races of students and their families.
“This resolution will open a completely new pool of talent and ideas that might not have been utilized before, allowing everyone to feel represented and valued for the contributions they bring,” she said.
“”The formation of this Racial Equity Committee lets me, my son Caleb, and all of the other Grand Prairie ISD Black students and their families know that we no longer walk this daily journey of racism and inequality alone, but that our fellow brothers and sisters of all other races now walk beside us.””
The resolution also notes a previous action taken by the board in December 2019. It approved an African American Studies course to begin in the fall of 2020. Grand Prairie ISD is among the first group of districts in the state to offer this course.