In the midst of ongoing unrest over systemic racism across the United States, Vancouver Public Schools on Thursday announced a districtwide equity initiative to improve services for marginalized students.
The district announced that, beginning in the fall, it would form an equity advisory group made up of students and parents of color, as well as representatives from the NAACP and League of United Latin American Citizens.
The group will be charged with responding to a “third-party equity audit,” reviewing board policy, district programs, curriculum and more to uncover areas that need to be improved to better support students.
The district will also hire a chief equity officer charged with reviewing school policies and education on an ongoing basis to review district policies.
The news is a continuation of ongoing discussions over racial equity in the 23,500-student school district. Last week, school board member Mark Stoker resigned after his tweet suggesting fire hoses be used to stop protests in Seattle. The protests were in response to the May 25 death of George Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
The school board is slated to select a new board member in the coming weeks.
The announcement also builds on the district’s response to findings by the Attorney General’s Office that concluded the district was suspending and expelling disabled students and some students of color at disproportionately high rates. After initially staying quiet on the findings, the district organized a group of community leaders and educators to discuss the findings and the district’s response.
The Attorney General’s Office also mandated that the district contract with the Center for Civil Rights at the University of California Los Angeles to review discipline practices, an ongoing review the district said will continue into the fall.
“We can, and we must, work together to create a more just and equitable school system,” Superintendent Steve Webb said in a district news release. “I am hopeful that together, we can address the issues of inequity, institutional and implicit bias and racism. Our students deserve nothing less.”