Setting Your Mindset for the Coming School Year

Thanks to those who shared their availability for our small group meetings for the rest of the summer. If you haven’t had a chance to do so, please let me know. I’ll set meeting dates next week.
For those of you who are relatively new to the group, I wanted to point out our resource list. This is a good place for referencing past articles and resources that have been shared, and organizations working in this space both nationally and locally. I’m a bit behind in updating it with the most recent things I have shared, but it’s a good start. I have also linked my Medium thread in case you know of anyone who is interested in this conversation but who might be unable or unready to join the email group themselves. Please feel free to share this.
I’m thinking about this coming year and I’d love to have a few volunteers during the school year who are sometimes able to attend School Board meetings. I’d like to set up a rotating schedule for those who are able to attend School Board meetings on a more regular basis, to speak at the meeting about something on the agenda through an equity lens. The agendas are posted on Mondays before the Thursday meetings, so I can help put together wording if you want it. You can sign up to speak online or in person. The goal is for our School Board members to hear about equity in many contexts, on many topics, consistently. The more they hear that this is important, the more likely it is they will embrace it and act on it. Please let me know, even if you can only do one or two for the whole year.
One of our members sent a study to me called “Parenting during Ferguson: making sense of white parents’ silence.” (PDF) This is a great example of how difficult these conversations can be and how important they are to have anyway, with our children, family members, and community members. It’s a long article, but well worth the read. It’s also a good piece for considering how our language conveys bias and might reinforce stereotypes even when we are trying to say the opposite. Having conversations with like-minded people can help you be more comfortable learning the language to speak about these issues. There are also programs/presentations out there about how to talk to our children about race. Please ask if you’d like a recommendation!
Many of you may be aware, but the Unite the Right 2.0 Rally is scheduled for August 11–12 in DC. Many groups are organizing to create a counter-rally that weekend. SURJ is conducting trainings for de-escalators. You can find out more at Shut It Down DC. If any of you want to go to show support for the counter-rally, I encourage you to do so, understanding that this follows last year’s Charlottesville rally and that this year is likely to be just as tense if not more so. Please take the necessary precautions.
Leslie Mac wrote a great piece for the Black Youth Project about the disconnect many people, even activists, have when it comes to advocating for justice. The separations at the border are immediate and undeniable, and separations like them happen every day to American citizens who are not afforded equal treatment under the law or by society because of the color of their skin. The outrage should be similar and it isn’t. This is an issue that must stay at the forefront of our minds when we are outraged by injustice — how can we change our own actions to be sure that similar things aren’t happening to our neighbors and community members?
Related to this is the tendency for activism to come around a specific issue when it directly impacts ourselves or our families, which is very natural. I would love to see those moved to action embrace the bigger picture of systemic racism and economic discrimination, to see those advocates listen, amplify, and follow (not lead) those communities that are systematically denied equality and who have been advocating without being heard. When you take on a cause, find someone who has been doing the work already and support their efforts whenever possible. White people, white women in particular, are socialized to lead (especially in social justice circles) and we must be mindful and intentional about following POC-led efforts instead of leading our own. That is why this group is not its own organization — that is why we strive for accountability and work to be a coalition, amplifying voices of color and following their lead in finding the way forward.
I have reached out to one of our County Board members, inspired by his comments at the recent Leckey Forum. I’m hoping to set up a meeting with him over the summer as I would love to hear his perspective on equity issues in our county and the way forward for better collaboration between the schools and county government.
I had a meeting with a parent at a local elementary school who is starting to advocate more strongly for equity and conversations around racial equity in particular. I’m excited to hear what the group does and how things develop.
I had a meeting with one of the School Board members last week about upcoming opportunities to engage our district on equity. We discussed the danger of equity becoming a buzzword like diversity and losing its some of its power and meaning, so as we move forward, we need to be clear about what we mean by equity. Some things to keep an eye on as the school year begins: restructuring at the Office of Minority Achievement related to measuring effectiveness; K-12 instructional vision (draft in October) for how to make the overall system more cohesive (like grouping paths for students geographically, thematically, etc.); and, evaluation of middle school rigor, which will impact gifted program/AP course dynamics and will include consideration of how to avoid “tracking” students (which generally exacerbates inequities). We should watch for these things and others in the School Board’s meeting agendas and speak about them as much as we are able.
Keep striving!

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