Response to Recent Incidents of Racism in Our Schools

Only one month into the school year, and the Coalition has already been made aware of several incidents of discrimination and bias, including racist graffiti, islamophobia, lunch-shaming of children of color, anti-Semitic graffiti, and homophobic graffiti in the schools. Most recently our community has heard from family members whose child described having her hijab pulled off by a teacher. This is unacceptable in any community, but particularly shameful in ours, which has repeatedly declared itself committed to inclusivity and integration in its schools. Each incident is distressing and demands both the care and concern of the community, as well as action that addresses bias and discrimination.

Every child deserves a learning environment that is safe and welcoming, and all of the adults in our community have a part to play in making that happen. As a community, we need to provide support to the students affected. More importantly, we need to be proactive in examining our own roles and spheres of influence in which we can make a difference in preventing these incidents from happening, including: caregivers educating their children on respecting and celebrating each other's differences, and how to be an upstander; caregivers examining their own bias and how that may be communicated to their children; and most critically, the school district taking seriously its obligations to train our educators on systemic bias.

We understand the school district and police department have begun investigations of this latest incident, but that is not enough. For the school district's Intentional Integration Initiative to be successful, regular anti-bias training for teachers and staff is necessary, as is regular anti-racism education for our students. An occasional half day workshop for teachers is not enough. This training must occur regularly, and must be regularly reinforced at the individual school and classroom level.

We urge the school district to examine its training protocols and implement changes to ensure incidents like these do not happen again; to support any students who experience any type of discrimination; and to provide ongoing supervision and feedback to educators on how to hold themselves accountable for teaching without bias.

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