Well-publicized recent events call attention to the important work of a Saline Area Schools committee that many months ago began looking at ways to fight racism, homophobia and other things that make students feel unwelcome or even unsafe in school.
At the Feb. 25 Saline Board of Education meeting, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee presented a series of recommendations to the district.
DEI Committee member Melissa Zaksek read the committee’s statement to the board before other members presented the recommendations.
“The last few weeks have been a devastating though, not surprising, time for our school district and community,” Zaksek said. “What we need right now is action. This Saline Area Schools Diversity Equity and Inclusion committee urges the district and board of education to move forward quickly and decisively with immediate-term actions that will respond to many of the DEI-related issues and concerns that have been voiced by students parents and community members.”
Zaksek said the recommendations can help the district and community heal from recent and past events and “proactively create a more inclusive and equitable school district.”
DEI Committee member Channon Washington said conversations about diversity and inclusion began in earnest in the fall of 2018 after racial slurs were used in a Saline elementary school. As a result of those conversations, the district formed the DEI committee in March of 2019. In August, the DEI committee adopted the Education Justice Assessment & Transformational Tool to help provide a framework for the recommendations.
The recommendations are as follows:
Improve policies and communication. This includes revising student handbooks and the staff code of conduct, the continuous collection of DEI-related feedback from students, and reviewing and revising the district’s climate survey questions to help provide benchmarks that can be used to track the district’s progress on these issues.
Recruiting and hiring. This point centers around the cultivation of a diverse and inclusive organization, which includes recruitment and retention of a diverse staff.
Curriculum resources. The point centers around building DEI competency in all students by increasing the use of texts that teach cultural competency in the K-8 evels, integrating culturally responsive curriculum at all grade levels, and providing lessons for all students that teach students how to be interrupters and not bystanders.
The recommendations appeared aligned with demands made by students at the Feb. 11 meeting.
The DEI committee will continue to meet regularly to evaluate. It will also review and incomprate feedback from the district’s recent listening sessions. New information can be used to develop more recommendations for the Saline Board of Education.