OPRF urged to hit reset on racial equity policy draft

D200, community leaders bump heads over preliminary version

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

As District 200's proposed racial equity policy takes shape, a number of community members are afraid that the final product will be too watered down to be effective.

Their concerns recently prompted D200 officials to decide against presenting the final draft policy to school board members during an April 16 Committee of the Whole meeting; instead, officials explained, the draft policy will go back to the Racial Equity Policy Committee on April 18 for further review.

In a statement released on April 13, representatives with a variety of local organizations — including African American Parents for Purposeful Leadership in Education (APPLE), Committee for Equity and Excellence in Education (CEEE), Oak Park Call to Action, and Suburban Unity Alliance (SUA) — said they were "deeply disappointed" with the final draft of the policy that D200 Supt. Pruitt-Adams and OPRF Principal Nathaniel Rouse were scheduled to present on April 16.

The community leaders said they were concerned with "how the language in the goals have been made so general and vague that they delete substantially the spirit, details and intentions of community input in previous drafts that developed from January through early April."

They also said the proposed final draft did "not provide any details on implementation, procedures and accountability."

For instance, a draft of the policy presented to the D200 school board for first reading on March 21 includes edits highlighted in bold red lettering that are not in the document that was to be presented on April 16.

The March 21 document includes extensive definitions of race and racism in bold red lettering and a definition of structural racism in black lettering. Those terms, however, aren't included in the April 16 document, which provides short definitions of institutional racism and racial equity.

The April 16 document also doesn't include explicit references to a Racial Equity Impact Assessment tool that will "help decision makers consider racial equity when assessing policies, procedures, [and] professional development," among other practices, according to the definition of the tool outlined in the March 21 document.

John Duffy, head of CEEE, said in an interview this week that community leaders had a variety of modifications to an April 3 draft policy that did not make it into the April 16 draft, such as the need to include a strong racial incident protocol that explicitly prohibits race-based and other forms of harassment and discrimination and lays out guidelines for handling complaints.

Duffy said that, while he doesn't know what part the district's legal advisors played in modifying the April 16 document, they have nonetheless advised the district at points in the drafting process to "abandon" policy language recommended by community groups.

Duffy, who sits on the 26-person Racial Equity Policy Committee — the body that has worked for at least five months on crafting the policy — said that when he and other community leaders saw an email from Rouse that included the April 16 final draft policy, "We said, 'This is a failure.' It lacked any detail. The goals became so vague that they were meaningless and there was no direction in terms of acting on them."

Duffy and other community leaders stated in the April 13 statement they would like D200's racial equity policy to "have close alignment with the recently adopted robust and comprehensive [Oak Park Elementary Schools District 97] Racial and Educational Equity Policy."

The D97 school board approved their racial equity policy last month. That process also included extensive back-and-forth with community groups and parent organizations.

D97's policy lays out detailed strategies for implementing the policy in nine different areas, includes explicit reference to a "racial equity review tool," and provides definitions for terms like white supremacy, among other ways it differs from D200's draft equity policy.

Unlike the D97 policy, Duffy said, "There's no indication of what the procedures and implementation will look like," before adding that there's "no reason the procedures can't be in a parallel document" if they're not included in the actual policy.

In their statement, community leaders recommended that "the drafting and approval of this policy be extended at least one more month," but that the policy be finalized and approved before the school year starts.

The community groups also said they planned on presenting, at the April 16 meeting, a different working draft that's "representative of earlier drafts of the committee" and that more closely aligns with D97's racial equity policy.

When reached for comment, D200 officials would only say they decided not to bring the policy to the April 16 meeting based on feedback they received from Racial Equity Policy Committee members at the April 11 meeting and that the committee will "further discuss the language" of the draft proposal on April 18.

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com


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John Duffy  

Posted: April 18th, 2019 8:31 AM

Thank you for excellent reporting in this article tied to the long, at times confusing, and most recently disturbing, developments in the emergence of a racial equity policy for D 200. The Wednesday Journal has most responsibly and accurately covered this process since APPLE, CEEE and SUA first presented the bones of a racial equity policy almost three years ago. That coverage has included multiple articles and Viewpoint Essays, and even our proposed policy draft last October. We are pleased to say that Board President Moore in communication with us and the drafting committee has pledged to move the drafting and approval process forward with renewed energy and trust. Essential to understanding what has happened in the recent actions of community racial equity advocacy groups, as well as understanding proposed revisions we have brought forward to the District this week, is a close look at the official First Read of the policy presented by the administration to the Board at the March 21. 2019 Board meeting. You refer to this draft in your April 17th coverage. Our concerns, revisions, comments and rationale that you accurately presented yesterday are directly tied to the District's committee and community's First Draft presentation of the policy on March 21 to the Board. You correctly reference key parts of that draft that are in bold red print. I encourage you and our community to go to the agenda of the March 21 Board Meeting to read the full document. Our organizations and individuals both on the committee and in the community today are bringing much of that March 21st draft forward for inclusion in the final policy the Board seeks to approve on April 25. In the final efforts to get this landmark policy approved, as we have stressed recently, this policy should align as much as possible with the robust policy just adopted in D 97 and should provide for a parallel creation of procedures for implementation and accountability that are necessary to guide the c

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