The St. Louis Park School District has long sought to provide equity in classrooms but has taken the additional step of making a formal public commitment.
The School Board approved a resolution that says that “as school board members we are committed to actively interrupting systemic racism and eliminating inequities in our education system and therefore are compelled to speak out and take action.”
Systemic racism leads to systems, structures and behaviors that perpetuate harm to students, families and staff of color and their families through explicit racist actions and unconscious bias, according to the resolution.
The community and nation’s future requires that systemic racism be dismantled, ensuring that all children and families are able to thrive, the resolution states.
Public education is a key lever for creating an anti-racist society and democracy, it adds.
The district is committed to developing culturally relevant learning environments in schools in partnership with stakeholders, the resolution says. The district is seeking to move from conversations to planning to action, drawing on input received through the district’s Strategic Plan for Racial Equity Transformation process.
While the board members expressed their commitment to creating an anti-racist school system, the resolution states that they “recognize that the experiences and outcomes in our district are not consistent for historically underserved and marginalized groups, including Black, Indigenous, and People of Color; those experiencing poverty, homelessness, or foster/kinship care; students who identify as LGBTQIA+; those with disabilities; students receiving special education instruction; and immigrant and emergent bilingual students.”
The resolution commits the board to working with local government agencies and the community on the issue. Partners listed include the St. Louis Park City Council, Human Rights Commission, the St. Louis Emergency Program and local law enforcement.
The document calls for the School Board to support Superintendent Astein Osei in creating goals that “clearly delineate the expectations on actions the superintendent shall not fail to do to advance equity and anti-racism.”
The board committed to revising policies, board meeting topics and practices as needed during the next school year to ensure they focus on equity and anti-racism. The board also plans to develop its own racial equity policy and ensure that the district budget provides adequate funding to support equity work.
Board Chair Mary Tomback said before the resolution’s unanimous approval Aug. 10: “It will be a guiding principle for our work. We will be seeing it again and again, and we will revise and make it better as we learn.”
Boardmember C. Colin Cox recalled a past discussion on the impact of race in the district’s gifted and talented program.
“Here we are at the beginning of the school year, and just I’m excited to see us moving forward with this right now,” Cox said.
In an Aug. 3 special board meeting, Osei said: “If we didn’t have a resolution, it’s not like this school board is going to stop working on behalf of each student and working towards racial equity. But what I really appreciated about it was it was a way for us to display our commitments and our beliefs and outline the work that will be occurring over the course of the school year to continue to strive toward creating a more racially equitable school district and school culture and environment.”
Tomback said she believed equity work is particularly important during a pandemic and after the death of George Floyd, a St. Louis Park neighbor.
“I again hold myself accountable for the fact that something like this was not brought to the board sooner,” she said. “It should have been, and I regret that. I am grateful that we’ve got it before you all now.”
Cox indicated the board plans to keep its focus on the resolution moving forward.
“It’s not just something sitting on a website or something like that that has what seems like legalese,” he said. “We’re actually talking about holding ourselves accountable to it.”
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