The Monroe County Community School Corporation board voted to adopt an anti-racism policy during a meeting Tuesday night.
The policy, which will be added to the district’s bullying policy, was created in collaboration with MCCSC’s Equity Student Ambassador program. The program was formed in August 2022 after MCCSC students raised concerns about experiencing racism at school.
Related: [Despite good intentions, MCCSC TVs elicit conflicting feedback]
A first draft of the policy was published in December. However, MCCSC students and the Monroe County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People expressed concerns about a lack of clarity around how MCCSC would implement the policy and the language of the policy. The board chose to delay a vote in January to allow more time for deliberation and public comment.
The policy was first drafted as a racial equity policy, but students told administrators last May they wanted an anti-racism policy, which they said is different from simply racial equity. The title has since been changed to “anti-racism,” and the policy now includes an explicit commitment from the board to being proactively anti-racist.
The policy’s purpose is to confront and eliminate racist behaviors and microaggressions in all forms, according to the text. The policy will teach students and staff how to recognize and respond to bias and racism. School staff and administrators will be required to respond immediately to reports of harassment using a process and template for written investigation and follow-up procedures outlined in the policy. The policy also requires teachers to center equity when providing instruction.
Another new addition to the policy states the superintendent will provide the board with a timeline and benchmarks toward completion of the plan as soon as possible.
Pafoua Yang-Smith, a 4th-grade teacher at University Elementary School, said during the meeting the job of educators is to support their students, and an anti-racism plan is a step toward that. She said she has heard from students in marginalized communities that others have called them racial slurs and bullied them because of their skin color and the way they speak.
“The things that these students are experiencing should not be tolerated in MCCSC, and this policy officially takes a stand against discrimination,” Yang-Smith said. “It also provides me and other educators a guide of what we can do to support students when they experience discrimination.”
Related: [Indiana high school graduation rates hold steady]
Maqubè Reese, president of the Monroe County NAACP branch, spoke up in support of the policy during the meeting. She said it was important to pass the policy because it would require administrators and educators to view all policies through a critical antiracist lens.
“This policy is a robust commitment that anti-racism should be thoughtfully considered in every action,” Reese said. “What we do next determines how long this policy lasts and does not fracture.”
Jael Davis, a student at Bloomington High School South, said she couldn’t help but smile when viewing the newest draft of the anti-racism policy.
“All students should have equity, inclusion and equal rights according to the policies and practices established by school districts,” Davis said. “This anti-racism policy won’t abolish racism, but it will undoubtedly be a start. The right of young people to learn about human rights and their resources available to them in the battle against injustice, racism and discrimination is very much needed.”
Sabrah Wagner, a senior at Bloomington High School North, said the updated policy better reflects what students desired from it in the first version.
“Going forward into the guidelines, it continues to be important to be consistent and transparent when communicating with community members and students,” Wagner said. “I’m really hopeful for what is to come next.”