Red Clay forms equity panel to address racial disparities

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Red Clay Consolidated School District has created a committee to review and change “practices related to racial equity.”

Cognizant of longstanding low academic performance by black and Latino students in comparison to white and Asian students, along with other disparities, Red Clay Consolidated School District has created a committee to review and change “practices related to racial equity.”

The so-called Equity Committee was approved this week without dissent during Red Clay’s monthly board meeting after several speakers spoke of huge gaps in proficiency, discipline, hiring and other areas.

The panel, whose mission will be to have a board-approved plan ready to implement in the 2018-19 school year, also will look at equity for low-income students, those with different learning styles, learning or physical disabilities and members of the LGBTQ community. The panel will be composed of school officials, parents and community members.

Last year Red Clay had the most students of any Delaware district — 17,500. A total of 47 percent were black or Latino. The district’s racial academic gap, which is similar to the disparities in many other of Delaware’s 19 districts, is a glaring one.

For example, only 25 percent of Red Clay’s black sixth graders and 28 percent of Latinos are proficient in English, compared with 67 percent of white students and 84 percent of Asians.

In the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) taken by 11th graders and some 12th graders during the 2016-17 school year, 36 percent of black students and 38 percent of Latinos were considered proficient, compared with 78 percent of white students and 90 percent of Asians.

The disparity was more startling in SAT math, where 15 percent of Latino students and 17 percent of blacks were proficient, compared with 54 percent of white students and 86 percent of Asians.

The motion said: “We are hopeful this committee will lead the cultural transformation of Red Clay with changes in policy, hiring & employment, and improving practices necessary to create a culturally responsive district that ensures the success of every student,” the motions said. “This work is necessary to prepare every student to navigate and compete in a culturally diverse society and global economy.”

The motion stressed that equity benefits not only students, but the community.

“The concept of educational equity goes beyond formal equality — where all students are treated the same — to fostering a barrier-free environment where all students, regardless of race or special needs, gender, sexual orientation, social class, linguistic background, etc., have access to the opportunities and resources necessary for their success. Educational equity benefits all students, and our entire community.”

The idea to form a committee and change policies was proposed by board member Adriana Bohm, who attended Red Clay schools and is now a sociology professor at Delaware County (Pa.) Community College.

Addressing the board and audience members Wednesday, she cited the urgent need for changes, especially in light of last weekend’s racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Va. — home of the University of Virginia.

“We are at a critical historical juncture and it is our responsibility as school board members to move deliberately to enact racial justice through equity,” she said.

Declaring that she was the first person on the board to ever publicly use the term “white privilege,” Bohm added: “To ignore racism and white privilege, especially at this time, supports the reproduction of the racial caste system which stunts student success.”

District Superintendent Merv Daugherty also was unavailable Friday.

Board President Michael Piccio, a restaurant manager, said he doesn’t believe that “structural racism” exists in the district, but hopes the panel can help district officials figure out how to reduce the achievement gap and look at other areas where there are disparities, such as discipline.

Piccio applauded Bohm, saying she is “not afraid to bring up controversial topics.”

While Piccio said he believes “the structure at home” is the factor that most influences a student’s performance, he said that “any insight people could give us looking from the outside instead of looking from the inside out will help us make sound decisions” that could reduce the disparities.

 

 

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