The Lyons Township High School District 204 Board of Education, responding to pressure and an increased focus on racial equity during the past year, voted 6-0 on Feb. 16 to adopt a 148-word equity statement.
“As an institution that fosters the physical, social, and emotional well-being of all its students, we pledge to continue to promote practices, systems, and processes that enhance equity, access, and inclusivity,” the statement (see sidebar) reads in part.
The word “continue” appears twice in the statement and the word “remain” appears once in what seems to be an effort to try to make the point that LTHS has been focused on advancing equity for some time, a point not all critics might agree with.
School board president Tom Cushing said that although school leaders and the school board have working on the equity issue for some time, this was an opportunity to refocus and make a point.
“We wanted everyone to know that even though we have been working on it for a number of years that we were rededicating ourselves as a board and as an institution to look at it with fresh eyes, to look at new things that could be done that perhaps we weren’t doing, new initiatives, perhaps some restructuring in some areas,” Cushing told the Landmark.
Cushing noted that LTHS currently has an African-American liaison position as well as a Hispanic liaison position. He said restructuring could perhaps lead to a director of equity position.
Cushing pushed back at the idea that LTHS has not focused on equity in the past.
“Equity has been on the radar at LT for decades,” Cushing said. “We do take different initiatives at different times to try and make things to more inclusive, to reexamine what we’re doing.”
For the past six months, the LTHS school board has been working with Floyd Cobb, the executive director of teaching and learning at the Colorado Department of Education and the co-author of the book, “Belonging Through a Culture of Dignity: The Keys to Successful Equity Implementation.”
The board met with Cobb, via Zoom, for two three-hour workshops and read his book. Cobb, who is Black, also met with the board to help the board draft the equity statement.
“We drew on his expertise and guidance on the issue of belonging and inclusion, and then we focused in the equity statement,” Cushing said.
Cushing said the statement serves as a stake in the ground, a marker that LTHS is committed to focus on promoting equity.
“We are going to state out loud what we believe is inherent within this institution through our practices, through our policies, through our structure,” Cushing said. “I believe that there is a heightened awareness now. … We care deeply about all of our students, we truly do. This equity statement will serve as the foundation for the leadership, which will shortly be new leadership, to take action.”
Action is what the members of the group Belonging and Equity at LT (BELT) wants to see.
“This is a great first step and we’re excited to see action from the words,” said Maureen Wierema, a member of the steering committee of BELT.
BELT, which formed last summer, also issued a formal statement in response to the school board adopting the equity statement.
“We appreciate how challenging creating an equity statement is and are appreciative of their efforts thus far,” the BELT statement said. “We are excited to now see these words in action as the foundation for a strategic plan for D204 with equity embedded throughout, including hiring, discipline, class placement and college selection process, access to extracurriculars, and every facet of the students’ high school experience.
Lyons Township High School District 204 Equity Statement
Lyons Township High School remains committed to building a community based on a foundation of equity and inclusion where all students are treated with respect and dignity and know they belong.
We understand the impact all of our decisions have on our students, their families and our community. Decisions will be made to advance success, promote growth and support social emotional health of all LT students.
Improving academic achievement and promoting student engagement in all LT has to offer remain top District priorities. We will continue to partner with associate school districts, colleges, community agencies and others to continually enhance student opportunities, improve student preparedness, and provide positive learning environments for all students at Lyons Township High School.
As an institution that fosters the physical, social and emotional well-being of its students, we pledge to continue to promote practices, systems, and processes that advance equity, access, and inclusivity.