Equity & Access Newsletter

Secondary edition - February 2019

Equity & Access Guiding Principles and Why we use them

As we conduct professional development with our equity champions and at various sites throughout the district, we use "Five Guiding Principles" that dictate the framework and direction of our trainings. You can also apply these guiding principles when you're having courageous conversations outside of your work-life.

  • Stay engaged. When conversations are awkward or uncomfortable, it can be easy not to give that conversation your full attention. Learning to engage in the dialogue can take courage. Use your active listening skills to look for understanding during this process; not judgment. Take the perspective of walking in someone else's shoes.
  • Experience discomfort. Those conversations that revolve around race, religion, sexual orientation or politics can be very uncomfortable for whatever reason. Recognize and make yourself aware of whatever discomfort you may be feeling. Then ask yourself, "Why do I feel ....?" Why is that topic a hot button for you?
  • Speak your truth. It's important to speak from your identities (gender, race, religion, etc.) and speak from your perspective. Speak from your experiences and not generalities. When you speak from your experience, that's something others must honor and should not be up for debate. For example, I would say "As a male, I rarely worry about my physical safety in public."
  • Let the data lead the talk. As we have conversations professionally, delving into your data can guide you. I understand that some believe you can get data to say whatever you like. If a data point shows disproportionality, we should ask more questions and dig deeper into the data. This approach will keep you from imposing your own biases as you search for answers.
  • Expect/accept nonclosure. This step can be tough if you consider yourself a problem solver. Sometimes viewpoints and beliefs are so far apart there may not be a resolution, and sometimes be okay with that outcome. Trying to prove who is more right will get you nowhere.

To create meaning and opportunities for various people to be heard, seen, and valued; these guiding principles can help meet that expectation. This framework can help lead you to more productive conversations and increase your perspective of others.

Equity Champion Perspectives

Each month we try to share a perspective from one of our equity champions that we feel is important to share with you. This month, we have two willing to share their thoughts.

ELA teacher, Jana Hester at Parkview High School shares several inclusive classroom tips from Parkview's Diversity in the Classroom Collaboration.

Practicing Inclusion (Jana Hester)

Rachel Snyder, ELA teacher at Cherokee Middle School shares her perspective of making assumptions and what equity may look like from a student you may think is doing well.

Assumptions and Equity Perspective (Rachel Snyder)

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What's In Your Toolbox?

Does Sharing the Same Space Equal Sharing the Same Experience?

People who attended the same high school share their experiences. One person talks about how great high school was, and it was the best time of their life. Another person remembers high school as the worst time in their life, and they couldn't wait to get out of there. How do you have people from the same school, same period have such drastically different experiences?

It's important to remember that perspectives are shaped by experiences and actions are dictated by our behaviors. Your lens is YOURS and is not meant to be categorized for an entire group. You may unintentionally create a single story for others who may have shared the same experiences.

Even though you may come from a relatively homogeneous group, it doesn't mean you're all having the same experiences. So speak your truth when you talk about your experiences. For example, "My childhood growing up in St. Louis was hard because of the violence!" I take ownership of that experience, and it can't be refuted. Speak your truth and take ownership of your story.

LGBTQ Student Experiences in Missouri Schools

Late last year GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Educational Network) released their national data of the experiences of LGBTQ students in schools. GLSEN's state data is consistent with what is happening nationally - that LGBTQ youth are experiencing various forms of marginalization. The data was taken in 2017 and found that students lacked access to LGBTQ - inclusive curriculum, supports (student and staff-driven), exposure to discrimination, harassment, and assault.

As you review the climate data, think if you were a youth having some of these experiences at school. We want all students to feel safe, seen, and valued at school; and GLSEN gives several recommendations that districts/schools can implement to increase the opportunity for inclusive environments.

GLSEN 2017 State Climate Data

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