Edmonds School Board unanimously passes Race and Equity Policy

    A heat map from a separate presentation given to the Board on Oct. 24 shows Hispanic and African American students performing worse than white and Asian students on standardized tests. Board Member Diana White said charts like this show the need for a Race and Equity Policy.

    The Edmonds School Board unanimously passed a Race and Equity policy during its Oct. 24 meeting, the first such policy in Snohomish County and one of the few in Washington state.

    The policy “directs the Superintendent to develop and implement a system-wide racial equity plan with clear accountability and metrics, which will result in measurable academic improvements for Edmonds School District students.” In addition, the policy orders the superintendent to “regularly report progress on the plan and outcomes.”

    The policy was developed by school district officials and community members who participated in workshops and discussion groups over the last three years. It is District Policy No. 0000, meaning it is a policy that provides a lens through which district officials will examine all other policies to ensure racial equity among students.

    The need for such a policy became clear to district officials when reviewing student achievement statistics. For example, charts presented by the district during one recent meeting show that, on average, African American and Hispanic students perform more poorly than white and Asian students in the same classes when taking the same tests. Another graph reveals that white students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, on average, perform about as well as African American and Hispanic students who do not qualify for need-based assistance.

    Those behind the policy do not see it as a way to completely fix racial inequity—but rather they see it as a place to start.

    “This policy is a step toward moving away from blaming students of color,” said Assistant. Superintendent Justin Irish during a presentation on Oct. 10, during the policy’s first reading to the Board. He added that the policy is not about achievement gaps, but rather it is about opportunity gaps and creating equal opportunities for all students.

    Irish also said the policy gives students and families a way to voice their concerns when addressing actions of their staff and teachers.

    Community members have spoken in support of the policy.

    “I believe that this policy is a step toward holding our district to higher standards and being able to support teachers, staff and administration handle situations like the one we saw at Madrona,” said Karen Butler of Edmonds, referring to incidents of hate graffiti at the school during the past year. She added that she hopes having a policy like this will encourage the district to be more equitable to all students.

    “I’m excited,” said Dan Taylor, who works at Meadowdale High School. “This is work that a lot of people have put in to help all students… no matter what color.”

    However, others expressed concerns about the policy favoring minority students to the detriment of other students.

    One Lynnwood mother, Julie Dodd, explained that she has seen incidents of bullying that involved race, including kids who were told their opinions didn’t matter or that they weren’t cared about because of the color of their skin.

    “It may surprise you to hear that all of these incidents were referring to white students,” she said. “We seem to have developed a staff that is biased against white students.”

    She said such a policy may perpetuate a culture of discrimination rather than encourage unity.

    “Can’t we look at genuine care and leave skin color out of it?” she added.

    One speaker, Ryan Both from Meadowdale High School, wanted to know if the policy would protect minorities other than racial minorities. He used himself as an example, describing how he often feels judged for having a more conservative ideology than his teachers and classmates.

    “My view on tax reforms shouldn’t dictate how my teachers treat me,” he said.

    The policy does focus on racial inequity. Passages in the policy include: “Invite and include people from all races and ethnicities, inclusive of our families and community partners, to examine issues and find adaptive solutions” and “Develop the personal, professional and organizational skills and knowledge of its employees to enable them to address the role and presence of bias, prejudice and racism” in order to eliminate systemic disparities.

    It also encourages family, student and community engagement to ensure systemic equity, and collaborating with students, teachers and administrators to create and implement culturally responsive instructional practices, among other items.

    School board members were pleased to see the policy created, presented and passed.

    Board Member Diana White thanked those who spoke in support. She said the idea of the policy was created during strategic direction meetings years ago when several people asked to see a focus on racial equity from the school district.

    “It’s a formal thing now, a formal thing on the books, and now we have to do the hard work of putting it to work,” she said. “We need to be held accountable for it and this is one way to do it.”

    Board Member Gary Noble said he was proud to be the first school district in the county to pass such a policy. Other similar policies are in place in school districts in Tukwila, Boston, St. Paul, Minn. and Portland, Ore., among others.

    Board Member Carin Chase acknowledged the amount of work that went into developing the policy.

    “I’m very pleased to support this body of work and years of effort that this has taken to get us to a point to vote on it,” she said.

    Student Advisor Jacob Dodd, who represents Mountlake Terrace High School, expressed concerns about implementing the policy properly.

    “I think this needs to be carefully carried out so that no students fall through the cracks,” he said. He emphasized his worry that white students who are struggling could be overlooked if the district is too focused on minority groups.

    Throughout the process, those working on the policy have emphasized that creating this policy is not where the work ends. It is where it begins. Irish has said implementing the policy will be much more difficult than creating it, and that he thinks it will be a community-wide effort.

    To read the full policy, click here.

    –Story and photo by Natalie Covate

    30 Replies to “Edmonds School Board unanimously passes Race and Equity Policy”

    1. Has anyone looked at the disparity in performance of students being raised in single parent families and two parent families, regardless of color or race?

    2. Good question. It would also be interesting to see a study of the disparity in performance of students from divorced families vs. your other two categories. After many years of coaching and teaching, my experience has been that the quality of the parents, whether single, divorced or together is the main issue. I’ve seen wonderful results from all three, and dismal results from the best-appearing families.

    3. But wait, we’re a diverse community. We have a commission, we spend taxpayer money to ensure diversity is taught in our schools and in every possible media outlet. Yet, now we can divide our students by race? How about practicing what you preach and believe everyone is equal regarding race, gender, income, parental makeup?

      Please stop with the lazy policy making! You are in your positions because you supposedly possess knowledge or have solutions to long standing problems. Not state the obvious.

      Please stop ignoring parental involvement in a child’s development, establishing expectations and boundaries is out weighed by a child’s skin color.

    4. Parenting is a big factor in children’s achievement. And it begins before children enter school. The parent who holds a child, reads to them, pays attention to them will help a child succed. Using electronics as a substitute for parental attention is harmful.
      We lived in Japan and observed how important education was. They practically provided children with books from day one. At birthday parties children brought gifts such as pencil sets and other items to be used in school. It’s no wonder they have such high schievement.
      Society needs to emphasize parental involvement with their children.

    5. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

      -Martin Luther King, Jr.

    6. “Society needs to emphasize parental involvement with their children.”
      A very good point, but perhaps we might expand it to say that *we all* need to emphasize involvement with each other. I am always a bit nervous about saying “society needs” or “society should.” We are all society, all in it together, and it’s so easy – I do it all the time – to put the onus on “society” as a way of ignoring my own need to do more. No criticism of your comment at all – it’s just that all societal reform has to start at home. Or so I believe.

    7. I understand that in these difficult economic times many parents are complaining loudly about many “issues.”

      Last week I witnessed an Indian parent complain about discrimination at one of our schools because some other adults were staring and mumbling quietly while acting quietly polite as she walked out.

      “Discrimination! Racists! You’re all pale and don’t like darker skinned people!”

      The woman actually had some kind of dark ketchup on her face and the other parents were hesitant to inform her since being kind these days results in responses like;

      “White privilege! Gender discrimination!” Or whatever adjectives that are popular these days.

      As a voter, father, and somewhat regular volunteer at my child’s school, I have to admit I’m very disappointed with this knee jerk, politically correct, painfully vague attempt at solving a poorly defined “problem” or “issue” with an “umbrella policy?!?” Nonsense.

      These poor teachers are being run at 110 percent and volunteers like myself are increasingly few as the very real economic problems these schools are dealing with are not helped by adding additional bureaucratic workload to “to address the role and presence of bias, prejudice and racism” in an already overtaxed system.

      I apologize to anyone who invested emotional capital in this draft policy. I simply felt compelled to add my view that based on my observations, this is complete nonsense.

    8. My kids are half black. I’m so afraid that schools are going to attempt to address race with them. They are unqualified. The chief issue with institutional bias in schools is that teachers are so incredibly regulated and credentialed that few of them have the time or money to have families of their own, and so few teachers actually come from poorer communities themselves meaning they are unable to relate to the kids they are trying to teach. Dangerous Minds was just a movie, not real life. Hopefully the diversity theater that is playing out in these institutions is enough to make white folks feel more comfortable. Its not going to actually help kids from poorer, split home families. I’d rather my kids continue to believe that they’re just like everyone else than have a teacher tell them otherwise. Might homeschool if it resorts to that.

    9. I’m incredibly happy to see the posts since my original one. It is reassuring to know there are other like minded people in our city.

      It is amazing to me here in the PNW, race comes into play so often. I grew up in LA (a racial melting pot), moved to the south (a completely different view on race-negatively) and lived in numerous other cities in the country (with varying degrees of racial animosity). Having now lived in Edmonds for more than a decade and frequent daily the other areas of our metropolis (we are also a racial melting pot). I don’t pay attention to the complexion of a single person I come across and never see anyone unwilling to assist, communicate, help another person because of their complexion.

      I could be wrong and am positive racism still exists, but not by our educators or children. Teachers are right there with first responders when it comes to doing there job the best they can for all they serve. Children are children. I believe they don’t see complexion or ethnic differences until they are told to do so by elders and the media.

      As I said in my previous post, this is lazy policy making and flies in the face of the whole diversity argument being forced upon us. People and children truly are different:
      * male
      * female
      * affluent
      * middle-class
      * poor
      * single parent
      * two parent
      * involved parents
      * uninvolved parents
      * immigrants struggling with the language
      * learning disabilities
      * physical disabilities
      * educational family history

      I don’t profess to know the answer and utilize our election system to try and find the best school board administrators to vote for in every election. But, we elected them to come up with something better than race.

      1. Ive lived in 5 southern states. Edmonds is one of the white-est places I’ve ever been out side of San Francisco. It really seems as though the more segregated a society, like San Francisco, the more they virtue signal and pretend they’re the ones who figured out how to make an egalitarian society. Nonetheless, the “black exodus” from the Seattle area is well documented. I’m not a person of color, but I can imagine it’s very uncomfortable for planners to put slides up identifying your kids as being poorer performing based on their skin color. Its better to do nothing at all, then to hold a paper bag up to a kids and say, “Ok, youre dark enough kiddo, here’s some extra help.” Its cringy to group kids on race.

        Julie Dodd gets it. A voice of reason.

        1. I wonder if an area that is heavily white might not be exactly the area that needs to examine why this might be so, and take steps to address the issue?

    10. Very disappointing comments. The school board is trying to address inequities; this is not a threat to anyone. Institutionalized and unconscious racism remains a problem and it is right that the school board recognizes that.

      1. Bill, Edmonds is not racist. Edmonds does not have a problem with institutionalized or unconscious racism. However, there is a pervasive problem with perceived racism. That said, it’s not the school’s job to address perceived racism. Adults breaking people up into groups is bad enough, but to differentiate kids on their complexion and to treat them differently is not the school’s job. As a dad of mixed kids, I would lose it if the schools system says, “you’re kid is not reading as well as the others, we’re gonna put him in our special race program”. The school needs to treat all the kids the same, and the board needs to stop aggregating data like this on children. It’s not appropriate. I’m offended.

        1. I’m “somewhat” with you, Matthew. Edmonds as a city/entity isn’t racist. However, there is such thing as institutional racism. By default, while it shouldn’t be the school’s job to address racism, the fact that this is where children spend most of their day makes it so.

          I found it timely that this week’s episode of “black-ish” addressed institutional racism in schools (Brown vs Board of Ed.).

          Definition of Institutional Racism (via Chegg.com): Institutional racism is a pattern of social institutions — such as governmental organizations, schools, banks, and courts of law — giving negative treatment to a group of people based on their race. Institutional racism leads to inequality; sociologists use the concept to explain why some people face unequal treatment or occupy unequal statuses. One historic example of institutional racism is the barring of African-American students from attending certain public schools, which limited the students’ educational opportunities and helped prevent them from achieving a status equal to that of others. Institutional racism need not involve intentional racial discrimination. For example, individual judges might intend to impose similar sentences for similar crimes; yet if Caucasian people tend to receive lighter punishments, plausibly institutional racism occurs.

          1. Brown v BOE not only closed white-only schools, but also closed black-only schools. MLK received an excellent education by going to black-only Booker T. Washington school. Thurgood Marshall went to black-only schools; in fact most original Civil Rights leaders went to black-only schools that provided them a better education under segregation than what kids today get under a pseudo-egalitarian system. Jews, Japanese and Gays all faced -negative- institutional bias, but have all exceeded whites in education and income. Native Americans have received +positive+ institutional bias, with two federal departments dedicated to their affairs, but they suffer educationally and are generally poorer. On this point we agree; there’s no greater indicator of one’s income potential than how much time you’ve served in prison. I’m a man. There are 11 men in prison for every one woman. Looking at child custody or alimony cases for a moment, as a means to determine institutional bias in the judicial system, woman are favored by judges over men. Women criminals often get half the prison sentence as a man for the same crime. There no greater judicial bias than gender bias. Still, men make more money than women. Men have higher employment rates. Men suck it up and overcome, and that used to be the message for minorities as well. Men aren’t denying the fact that we commit more crime than women either.

            I fundamentally disagree that institutional bias causes disparity. Ironically, there seems to be a positive correlation of institutional bias and prosperity.
            People who want forced diversity and equality are well-intentioned, good people, but LBJ’s Great Society experiment not only failed – it made everything worse. It’s best to leave the kids out of it.

    11. I would welcome any of the commenters on this post who question the need for this policy to participate in the forums and open meetings that the Diversity, Equity and Outreach and also the Family Engagement departments of our school district are holding. This would afford you the chance to hear from our families and educators who are on the ground, dealing with these issues every day. It was community members, not administrators, who initiated the creation of this policy and years of work went into crafting this policy. There were numerous opportunities for community input and it is in no way a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to anything. Family involvement and support is one of the top goals and priorities of this policy. If you had been involved in the development of this policy you would know that:

      – It does address all forms of marginalization, not just race.
      – It prioritizes race, because across all other forms of marginalization, including economic, ability (our students in special education or on IEPs), religious, sexual identity, etc. it can be demonstrated that race is an overriding factor and that persons of color in any group fare worse than their white counterparts.
      – Our district can demonstrate statistically that children of color are not performing as well and are being disciplined more often and with more severity than their peers.
      – The district is very aware of how critical parent involvement is to student success. We already have a Family Engagement department to assist all families in becoming educated about our school system, encourage them to support their students and advocate for them and make sure families have the resources they need. This policy will encourage the prioritization of this work.
      – Another one of the priorities moving forward is to educate our staff, both teachers and administrators, to understand culturally responsive education, institutionalized racism and how we can work to remove bias from our systems.
      – Our students and educators of color are asking for this change. They are asking to feel represented, to see themselves in their leadership and curriculum and to have these disparities recognized.

      I am so proud to be part of a school district that recognizes this and is ready to do this work. I think this is the best path forward for all of us.

      1. “Our district can demonstrate statistically that children of color are not performing as well and are being disciplined more often and with more severity than their peers.” How are you determining a kid’s color? Are you collecting data on religion, sexual orientation, etc as well? By the reports it looks like you’re correlating student lunch assistance to student performance. It’s cringy to collect that sort of data, then use it for other purposes. I was never able to read very well, and I may have passed that down to my kids. I would faint if the school provided special “black” help to my boys if they were behind in reading. Based on the fact that schools are getting ever more segregated, and educational performance along racial lines is getting worse (just look at NYC), it could be more easily said that it’s the added emphasis on race, which has reached a crescendo over the last few decades, that is causing the disparities. Thomas Sowell is a great read on this topic.

        1. I believe that unless we opted out, all of us who registered or children in the district indicated a race or ethnicity and that this data uses those self selected identifications.

          The district does track performance as it correlates to lunch assistance to ensure that they are serving those children well. The overriding assumption is that children in any group we might look at are equally capable of succeeding if provided equal opportunity, so when we see gaps in achievement, we assume gaps in opportunity to succeed.

          I’m not sure what you mean by “black” help and won’t even go there.

          Based upon your recommendations of Thomas Sowell and Milton Friedman, I doubt we’ll ever see eye to eye on this issue. I am a strong supporter of public schools and do not think public funding should go towards private charter schools. While there are isolated stories of charter school success, overall these weaken the public school system and allow opportunities for public funding to be put towards schools that cannot or will not provide protection and assistance to some of our most vulnerable children.

          1. Hi all – there has been a very thorough discussion on this thread with good points made on all sides. I am going to shut this one down as of now. — Teresa

    12. I taught at a middle school and at a university. I expected the same from all my students whether they were, black, white, green, striped, etc. They knew I believed they had the capacity to learn and they tried to live up to it. Yes, some needed extra help—regardless of their race.
      Parent/guardian involvement is a major factor in learning, no matter what the family make up is.

    13. Jeanne Petty – Very good and informative answer! But while “it can be demonstrated that race is an overriding factor,” it is useful to point out that academic performance is not the only factor that needs to be addressed when discussing a race and equity policy. Suicide must rate as an even more important issue, and according to https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/127/5/896.short “lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth were significantly more likely to attempt suicide in the previous 12 months, compared with heterosexuals (21.5% vs 4.2%). Among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth, the risk of attempting suicide was 20% greater in unsupportive environments compared to supportive environments.”

      I am glad to see that sexual identity is part of the new policy; given the above, I suggest it needs to be among the top priorities, and as LGBT youth are often invisible and fearful of coming out, proactie steps need to be taken that will often not show any immediate results.

      1. I agree and I know that among the people who crafted this policy, these issues are foremost as well and the goal is to address all forms of marginalization. When I say race is an overriding factor, I just mean that while there are barrier one would face as an LGBTQ youth in our school system, there are even more barriers if you are an LGBTQ youth who is also person of color.

    14. I applaud Edmonds School District for ensuring, as a starting point, that their education practices are viewed through a lens of equity across race, nationality, and other lines. It is an extra mile to ensure we are doing all we can to honor the value of each person, and to address any achievement gaps that are happening across racial or other lines. It’s hard, and sometimes uncomfortable, to talk about race, and to call people to go that extra step to help someone who doesn’t look or act like you.

      I for one hope that all four of my white male children get the opportunity to experience that discomfort of figuring out how to embrace the other, to recognize injustice of those with less privilege, and to look in the mirror. It may teach them compassion, and kindness, and mercy, and you can bet that I’d rather have a kid like that than the alternative. Any day of the week. In addition, I’d like my children to grow up in a world where more people have that same ethic of compassion.

      1. Greg. Word salad. Apparently, at least according to the metrics the school has collected on our kids, they are running the class room in a way that is institutionally racist, and have been doing so for quite some time. The resolution they passed was like what you said, words with no specifics. Can you give any anecdotes, specific injustices you’d want fixed in this “better world”? 🙂

        1. My specific example is in Matthew 25:35-40. It’s pretty much what I live by. Whatever we do for the least among us, that we do for God.

    15. New York Times, October 15, 2015, “Has ‘Diversity’ Lost its Meaning?” How does a word become so muddled that it loses much of its meaning? How does it go from communicating something idealistic to something cynical and suspect? If that word is “diversity”, the answer is: through a combination of overuse, imprecision, inertia and self-serving intentions.

    16. If you haven’t experienced institutional racism ( or whatever you’d like to call it) yourself, that’s wonderful. However, don’t disqualify or dismiss the perspectives of those who have…and vice versa.

      1. Ive experienced institutional bias on many occations. It exists. Its pretty easy to navigate around when you dont rely on institutions.

    Comments are closed.