A proposed policy meant to ensure that minority students get the same chances of academic success as white students is set to be voted on Tuesday by Fort Worth school trustees.
“This is about the equitable distribution of resources and equitable access to opportunity,” said Trustee Ashley Paz, who represents District 9.
The proposed racial and ethnic equity policy would be separate from the district’s existing nondiscrimination policy, which protects students from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, national origin, disability, or “any other basis prohibited by law.”
Paz said nondiscrimination policy relates “to the way people interact with each other and individual discrimination.”
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“The racial equity policy is about institutional racism, which is specific to policies and procedures that lead to a gap in educational opportunities for students of color, and create disproportionate disadvantages in achievement for students of color,” Paz said.
One way to address these gaps is by offering more high school learning opportunities about the histories and contributions of African-Americans, women, Hispanics and Native Americans. Such an effort would include creating curriculum, developing courses and promoting those electives so students know they are available.
Johnny Cook-Muhammad, a 51-year-old community organizer, said minority students will be more invested in their learning if they see role models and historical leaders from their communities.
“If you don’t know your history, you don’t know where you came from, so you don’t know where you are going,” he said, adding that growing up he didn’t learn about African-American leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks while attending schools in Fort Worth.
A draft of the policy outlines its purpose and goals:
“District students deserve a safe and respectful learning environment in which all students shall receive an education that maximizes their potential for success in college, career and community leadership. The District shall focus on improving its practices in order to ensure equity in education. Any achievement gap between white students and students of color … is unacceptable.”
The policy calls for providing “high quality, culturally and personally relevant instruction, curricula and support.” It also calls for the elimination of losing instructional time due to disciplinary referrals — an effort that is currently underway.
Paz said the proposed policy is part of a larger strategy that includes an estimated $1.37 million investment in training for the district’s 11,000 employees.
The proposed policy is the result of several meetings and workshops by members of the district’s Racial Equity Committee. It involves a review of existing policies in Texas schools and other states, Paz said. It also stems from the national My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which focuses on opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color. That national program was launched by President Barack Obama.
The school board’s proposed policy comes as the city of Fort Worth begins working to develop a program that identifies racial issues and how to fix them.
This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.
- 5:30 p.m. Tuesday
- School board complex, 2903 Shotts St., Fort Worth