Loudoun resident: School plan the wrong approach on racial issues

Loudoun resident: School plan the wrong approach on racial issues

SCHOOLS

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It’s a program designed to reduce racial problems in the Loudoun County School District (LCSD).

One LCSD resident said it’s an ill-designed attempt to deal with the issue while ironically deploying racial divisions.

new district program designed to “combat systemic racism” is only open to students of color. The school board was scheduled to hear a report about the Equity Ambassador Program at its Tuesday, Oct. 27, meeting. It’s an information item, not up for a vote from the board.


Ian Prior | Twitter

Ian Prior, a Loudoun resident with children in the district, said this is a wrongheaded approach to dealing with the issue.

“In trying to create a more inclusive environment, Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) is doing so in the most ham-handed way possible,” Prior said. “First, the Equity Ambassador Program is explicitly discriminating on the basis of race, opening it up to a very viable challenge under the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. Second, if the goal is to eliminate racism, it makes zero sense to not be welcoming of all students.”

It’s on the agenda for the next board meeting, part of a months-old effort to combat what district officials have termed inherent racial bias.

“LCPS administration will create an electronic form for LCPS students to anonymously share their stories regarding issues of racism, injustice and inequity,” the action item states. “Stories and experiences will be reviewed and shared by the Supervisor of Equity and Student Equity Ambassadors during regularly occurring student Share, Speak-up, Speak-out meetings. These opportunities will be used to amplify the voice(s) of Students of Color and those who have experienced or witnessed injustices, marginalization or discrimination.”

The school district’s plan to “combat systemic racism” was launched this summer.

The ambassador program will be introduced at the district’s 17 middle and 17 high schools. Each school will select two or three “student leaders” who will meet with the Equity Supervisor as well as district leadership four or five times a year, according to the plan presented to the school board.

The students will be chosen with the input of the principal, assistant principals, counselors and equity leads, according to the plan.

“The student leaders will be responsible for amplifying the student voice by engaging in discussions about student stories/experiences regarding issues of racism, injustice and inequity,” it states.

The program is designed to deal with the issue of racism and bias, which is not fully understood by people in the school district, according to the plan.

“We are focusing on race because it is important to recognize students who have been marginalized,” it states. “Also, our systemic equity assessment indicated that there is a low level of racial consciousness and racial literacy in our division; discipline policies and practices disproportionately negatively impact students of color, particularly Black/African American students; many English Learners, Black/African American, Latin and Muslim students have experienced the sting of racial insults/slurs or racially motivated violent actions.”

White students are not allowed to take part in the program in any capacity, as the plan details in a suggested response. They may be allowed to participate in another way.

“Thank you for your interest but this opportunity is specifically for students of Color,” it states. “However, students at each school have an option of creating an affinity group for students of Color who all share a similar racial identity and they may also include allies.”

Prior said there is a way to correct this error before any damage is done or challenge mounted.

“The fix here is simple — LCPS needs to open this program up to everyone and redesign it as one where everyone is working together,” he said. “If, as LCPS claims, there is systemic racism in its schools, then it is going to require everyone to work together and any such program should not engage in racial preferences.”

Prior said he is not alone in objecting to this program.

“I have heard from a number of parents that are very frustrated with LCPS’s new constitutionally suspect ‘equity’ policies that are geared toward guaranteeing that everyone has the same results, as opposed to the same opportunities,” he said.

Superintendent Dr. Eric Williams issued an “Equity Statement” on the need to address racial prejudice and white supremacy.

“LCPS calls for all students, staff, families and other members of our community to engage in the disruption and dismantling of white supremacy, systemic racism and hateful language and actions based on race, religion, country of origin, gender identity, sexual orientation and/or ability,” Williams said. “LCPS rejects racist and other hateful behavior and language, recognizing that it encourages discrimination, hatred, oppression and violence. Every individual is valued in Loudoun County Public Schools. Let’s celebrate the diversity that helps define us as a school division.”

LCPS, located in the Washington metro area, is the third-largest school division in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Enrollment topped 81,000 last school year. 

Loudoun County is the fastest-growing district in the state, and opens one to three schools a year to meet the rising number of students.

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