Richmond Community Schools officials have received a draft of a proposed equity policy that’s been four years in the making. 

Three representatives of Richmond Education Association’s Racial Equity Coalition addressed RCS leaders during the public comment portion of the June 19 school board meeting. 

Debbie Carter, Erica Pearson and T. Washington said they represented current and former teachers, community members and parents who have been meeting over the past four years to determine how to best help the district. 

They say they’re supporting and furthering the school board’s existing goal of promoting diversity, equity and inclusion within the school system.

To assist with the goal, the coalition suggests the board adopt an equity policy and presented copies for the board’s review. 

Pearson said that RCS’ existing anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies only address legal and disciplinary action, while equity policies are proactive and preventive. 

Being proactive means finding ways to include and engage students who are part of groups that are traditionally excluded, Pearson said.

Prevention also is important, coalition members said, because they’re aware of small harms people experience over time, which become cumulative. 

During a listening session with teachers, paraprofessionals and students of color, some students said they had received hurtful comments that hadn’t reached the level of disciplinary or legal action. Because a teacher hadn’t been present, disciplinary action couldn’t be taken. 

Pearson is hopeful that adding the policy would increase education for students, staff, teachers and administrators so they realize the impact of their words and actions. 

The policy would encourage those who see something negative occurring to say something.

Pearson remains optimistic that once kids and adults learn more about inclusion, issues will become less frequent because people can do better when they know better. 

Washington said 102 stakeholders attended a community forum earlier this year at Morrisson-Reeves Library to hear more about the coalition’s reasons to work on the policy. Since then, the coalition conducted three stakeholder meetings to work on the draft. 

Carter said she was part of a “great” meeting with Superintendent Curtis Wright to talk about the draft policy and discuss the process moving forward.

The coalition has requested to be part of a future school board work session to talk about the policy and answer questions from board members. 

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A version of this article appeared in the July 3 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.