Earlier this week, an incident involving racist and derogatory comments at Centennial High School was reported. An investigation was conducted and appropriate, disciplinary action is being taken. Due to student privacy rights, those details cannot be released. The Centennial School District condemns all types of hatred and racism and will take appropriate action with any situation.
We want to take a moment to outline the previous work we’ve completed with our stakeholders to make a better environment for all of our students. In 2016, we developed a strategic plan goal focused on equity. In a partnership with the District and Equity Alliance Minnesota, we have facilitated staff training on implicit biases, culturally responsive teaching, microaggression, and other topics that revolve around race. Most recently, we spent last summer in listening sessions with students and families impacted by racism as well as representatives from the community group, C.A.R.E.S. (Community Advocates for Racial Equity in our Schools). We took the feedback and call to action and incorporated them into initiatives this year.
Some of this work includes an audit and changes to curriculum based on bias, replacing text, creating equity resources for classroom use, and a number of other initiatives which are included online, at the District’s Equity tab, www.isd12.org/equity. Site administrative teams have also met regularly with middle and high school BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) students, under-represented students, and allies to understand concerns and work together on solutions.
Regardless of these comments, we recognize there are still issues. We will work on a plan moving forward to continue to ensure these issues are addressed. With ongoing help from our students, families, and the community, here are some of the next steps of our future equity plan that will focus on creating a safe, welcoming, and healthy environment in our schools.
- We have contacted Equity Alliance Minnesota to facilitate listening sessions with students, families, and the community to get feedback to develop ideas to include in our action plan. The action plan will establish our priorities, a process to implement, and tools to evaluate the effectiveness of the plan. This will be done in partnership with our stakeholders.
- We’ve had continued dialogue with our school board of hiring an Equity Coordinator position for our District. The next step is to fill the position prior to the next school year.
- In ongoing conversations with students, we need to continually work on building trust with our students. For approximately the past seven years, we’ve had a Centennial Tip Line in place where students can report concerns to the administration. By promoting the Tip Line, as well as creating additional ways to report concerns on any topic confidentially. Information can be found online at www.isd12.org/parents/anti-bullying/centennial-tip-line.
- Two years ago, we developed a restorative practice process called P.A.R.R. (Purpose, Academic, Reflection, Restorative). The P.A.R.R. program addresses issues head-on. Students have opportunities to discuss behavior, understand the impact of their decisions, and learn and grow from their experiences. The goal is to be reflective and educate students in an effort to not have these issues reoccur. We will continue to grow and enhance this program.
- Through an action plan developed from feedback from our stakeholders, there will be an education component for students. Our intent is to have dedicated time to educate students on the topics of racism, bias, dangers and the impact of social media, and other areas that impact the way we respect and treat each other. Our goal is to have this in place for the next school year.
- Throughout this year Centennial Students for Change, a group of Centennial High School students, and the BIPOC Advisory Group, a group of Centennial Middle School students, have met with administrative teams in an open dialogue to improve our school environment and address concerns. The District has formed a parent equity group where each school is represented. We have our first meeting scheduled in April. We intend to continue meeting with this group where information is shared, and feedback is used to make our schools stronger. Our goal is to listen, learn, and make positive changes that support the culture of our schools.
- Through these collaborative processes and initiatives, we are going to learn about other areas where we need to improve. As we learn of these opportunities, we are committed to assessing each one to help improve the culture of our schools.
We are also committed to working with students to provide education, awareness, and respect on issues of race and other topics. Our work ahead needs to change the narrative—in the school district, in our schools, in the community—and adhere to our mission to empower all learners with voice, knowledge, and skills necessary for success in the 21st Century. Students deserve to feel safe and belong in an environment where their voices are heard. We recognize our BIPOC students are not feeling that way. We will work on this proactively and collaboratively with them and our partners to improve the environment. This is an ongoing process that will take time to develop, and we are committed to do the work to create a better tomorrow for our students.
Thank you for your ongoing support and encouragement. Our process brings voices to the table. As we go through this journey, look for updates and progress in upcoming communications and publications.