A District Commitment to Equity & Antiracism

Current Events & News | 11/05/2021

Andrew Kalmen
Stand for Children Fellow

At last month’s meeting, the Salem-Keizer School Board voted 4-2 and adopted a resolution on their commitment to ensuring equity and antiracism are found within Salem-Keizer Public Schools. 

The votes in support of this important resolution were: Osvaldo Avila, Karina Guzmán Ortiz, Ashley Carson Cottingham, and María Hinojos Pressey. These are the same four candidates many Stand for Children volunteers and community members worked so hard to elect this past election. 

As a former student of the district (McKay 2020) and now a fellow at Stand, I believe that this is critical in the effort to ensure that all students, especially historically-marginalized students, are afforded not only the opportunity to learn, but to thrive, in an environment that is safe and welcoming to all.

The resolution, titled, “Commitment to Equity and Antiracism,” acknowledges the fact that racism is a real and dangerous threat to students and their learning. It also points out the inequities in our schools like an “overrepresentation of students of color in special education and the underrepresentation of students of color in talented and gifted and college-prep programs.” Most notably, the resolution states that “being anti-racist means looking deeply at systems, policies, and curricula that oppress our diverse populations.”

The resolution is clear in its intent for an anti-racist district and why discricts must be anti-racist. We must all acknowledge the fact that it’s not enough to just not be racist... but instead be we must be proactively anti-racist. This is crucial for an educational environment where all students can thrive and marginalization can be eradicated.

This resolution is important and I’m glad that this school board is addressing this issue. Going through the school system myself, most students were aware, especially at my high school, of clear inequities often being reinforced by previous district leadership. Like, for example, seemingly going with and supporting a specific community’s concern of “not [being] ready for integration” to address overcrowding in schools to more recent controversies where 30 minutes into a May 26, 2020 budget committee meeting, a now-former board member stated how they believed the district was “spending a fortune” feeding kids free meals-- a basic necessity that many families might not be able to attain in a consistent manner.

These issues were noticed by many students which showed how the issue of inequity was so prevalent within our schools.

Now with the tide turning, we want to celebrate this action taken by the current school board. We need to show to the students of today and the students who watched the words and actions of the past how all are now being considered by leadership and that their educational experience matters. 

We must make sure that our current board listens to the voices and concerns of our students, parents, teachers, and community.

We are making real change now and need all hands on deck to ensure that more opportunities for success are afforded to all students via action and support at institutions like the Salem Keizer School Board. Together, we must make change for a better tomorrow.

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