“EDUCATION IS THE GREAT EQUILIZER.”
-HORACE MANN, PIONEER OF PUBLIC EDUCATION
With everything going on in the world, heartfelt messages of support and encouragement for the Black Lives Matter movement are everywhere. Our public school districts are no different, as numerous letters from superintendents and board members have been posted to reinforce public schools’ promise to embrace and promote diversity and inclusion.
San Antonio ISD Board President Patti Radle released a powerful letter saying, “Now is a most important time for all of us to examine where we stand and what we truly believe when it comes to asking who is our brother, who is our sister. If we can not say it is everyone, then it is a time to re-examine what we have promised to be as a nation.” To SAISD, where 97% of the students are of color, Radle continues, “We commit to teaching what it means to be a loving community where kindness leads the way to a successful future where all people are considered our brothers and sisters.” SAISD Superintendent, Pedro Martinez reaffirmed Radle’s statement and reached out to SAISD employees, saying “We have a duty to not only follow our mission to educate our students… but also to empower them to know their rights… As educators, we must focus on our students. We must work to ensure equity within our school system.”
The Superintendent of Judson ISD, Janette Ball, touched on the relevance of fellow educators coming together to address racial issues in schools. “I cannot ignore problems as an educator. These issues must be addressed in order to improve…My mother instilled in me that education is the great equalizer. We are all equal as humans, but we all have different potential and are not always given the same opportunities, but an excellent education has the power to change lives and create a more equitable society.” Ball concludes her letter to Judson ISD staff and colleagues, proposing, “I ask you to join me in making sure that, as educators, we fulfill our obligation to ensure that ALL students feel welcome and experience an outstanding education. “
While our public schools promote diversity, some school districts are actively developing plans to improve inclusion, acceptance, and kindness in their communities. Dr. Leticia Guzman of Royal ISD reached out to district families, stating “Royal ISD is creating a plan that will allow us to continue increasing our cultural and racial sensitivity…We will be looking to you as our community to collaborate with us. We know that as a school district, we need to listen and you need to feel heard.”
East Central ISD Superintendent, Rolando Toscano, highlighted the success of the district’s diversity training program. ECISD leaders took action after learning that their Black/ African American students were disproportionately punished by being suspended or expelled, and excessively placed into special education programs. The district committed itself to offer diversity training for staff and administrators. The ECISD police officers are consistently and regularly trained in racial profiling, cultural diversity, and the use of force. Restorative discipline, which focuses on student/ peer/ teacher relationships, has been successful in lowering disciplinary actions. The results of ECISD’s actions show a 9% decrease in incidents over the previous year. Toscano adds, “We have assembled an equity task force at the district, a unity council at the high school, and have connected with the United Communities of San Antonio.” The superintendent concludes with asking ECISD community members to serve as positive role models through their actions, and he promises “to look long and hard at the man in the mirror every day, and hold myself accountable for doing my part now and for the long haul.”
All of the letters and statements released have been connected by a common thread of working toward more inclusion and education on racial and cultural issues. School districts want their staff, students, and community to collaborate to make serious changes to make the existing diversity programs more effective. Cypress- Fairbanks ISD Superintendent Mark Henry addressed graduating seniors, saying, “For those of us who have not experienced discrimination, the most important thing we can do is listen to others. Just because we haven’t experienced discrimination doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I don’t need to tell you how you should think; I need to listen to how you feel.”
Superintendent Henry sums up what our public school districts can offer that some other schools might not, by stating, “One of the reasons I sent my children to public school is I knew they would be surrounded by a diverse community that better reflects what the world looks like. I truly believe that they are more understanding people because they went to school with people who did not look, think, or believe exactly as they did. The more we know each other, the better off we’re going to be.”
It is true that public schools promote diversity, but we can always improve. Together our school districts will continue to move forward, encouraging acceptance and kindness in every student and every staff member. Every small step toward racial equality is an essential part of a complete education for our children and our future.