Regional School Unit 73 directors were asked to form a district equity committee Thursday, Oct. 8. During a presentation on why the committee is needed, this slide on the differences between equality, equity and justice was shown. Screen shot

JAY — The Regional School Unit 73 board of directors were asked Thursday night, Oct. 8, to form a district equity committee.

Spruce Mountain High School Principal TJ Plourde said a committee has been looking at equities in that school and possible methods or processes to address them.

Kymberly Bryant, an English teacher at SMHS, presented information about the proposed district equity committee, its purpose, and why it is needed.

“Our school’s vision is, “SMHS graduates will be academically prepared and culturally enlightened citizens who are confident and self-reliant, economically and socially responsible, resilient and ready to face the changing demands of a global society,” Bryant said. “Our mission is to provide opportunities to explore diverse perspectives through the arts and multicultural appreciation and promote responsibility, respect, empathy and compassion throughout the school and greater community.”

Some thing needs to be worked on as a district, she said.

“There are a lot of things to consider. It will not be a fast effort,” Bryant stressed. “It will take a lot of time and effort.”

A lot of people equate or confuse equity with equality, she added.

A slide showed the differences between equality, equity and justice. With equality, everyone gets equal treatment. Under equity, extra support is given when needed. For justice, all barriers are taken away, systemic barriers removed.

Another slide gave the proposed mission of the equity committee: To advise the district and act as community catalyst to provide students from marginalized racial and ethnic groups, economically disadvantaged backgrounds, LGBT students, students who have physical and mental disabilities and mental health issues, and students who speak languages other than English with equitable and inclusive educational experiences; as well as to promote empathy, respect and compassion within the district for our diverse population.

The committee would consist of all administrators, school board members, kindergarten through grade 12 staff members, students and parents. It would work to create district-wide equity/anti-bias policies, plan staff and student trainings, review and integrate equity into curriculum, and work to create equitable policies/procedures.

“Absolutely no one wants to bulldoze anything, we want to be in line with other schools around the country,” Bryant said. “We could be in the forefront rather than playing catch up.”

Student representative Taylor Guay asked if religion would be covered.

The committee would make sure no policies exclude anyone’s religion, Bryant said.

Director Patrick Milligan asked about the committee’s impact in schools and the community as a whole.

“Make sure that all of our population is represented,” Bryant said. “Some students, community members may not have felt they’ve been represented.

“The major thing is just looking at it, students and community members will get a sense of having a place to voice their concerns.”

Show the community this is something we care about, she added.

“We’re talking about a lot of little tiny things that can make a really big difference, things that won’t make a huge difference to everyone else,” Bryant said.

One example she gave was labeling of bathrooms as non-gender.

“A number of staff members did a lot of training, workshops on this this summer,” Bryant said.

Director Joel Pike asked if the committee would be voluntary or offer a stipend.

“It’s entirely voluntary at this point. We can find staff at each level to help with that,” Bryant replied.

“A lot of students feel things aren’t accommodating for them,” Guay said. “These little changes may make a big difference for them in a positive way.”

Recently made changes in the policy handbook got a lot of feedback on how students feel more included, more accepted, Director Phoebe Pike said.

“This aligns with what we want,” she said. “We want everyone to feel welcome. We know everyone in our district is important, don’t want anyone to feel excluded.”

 


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