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Red Clay to begin work on racial equity plan in October

The Red Clay School Board voted unanimously Wednesday night to launch a new committee focused on issues of racial inequity.

School board member Adriana Bohm introduced the resolution, and in an impassioned speech said last weekend’s events in Charlottesville underscore the importance of racial equity work in schools.

“People don’t want to talk about racism, they don’t want to talk about segregation," Bohm said. "And I get it – it’s hard. But the most important work is hard work, like raising our children. I have two kids, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I don’t stop doing it because it’s hard.”

Bohm - who helped start a diversity committee four years ago - says that committee will be tasked with launching the equity committee, and equity plan. She says an important first step for the committee is to consolidate school data to find out where the gaps in racial equity are, and then use best practices to address them.


According to the Rodel Foundation, more Wilmington students enrolled in Red Clay than any other First State district in the 2014/2015 school year: 3,744 students in total. That's compared to 2,481 of Wilmington students who enrolled in Christina that year, 2,989 in Brandywine and 243 in Colonial. Achievement data from schools within city limits shows a correlation between schools with low reading and math scores and schools with high percentages of students from low-income families.


The committee’s first meeting will take place October 26th, and Red Clay Superintendent Mervin Daugherty says he hopes to have a racial equity policy in place for the 2018/19 school year. The committee meetings will be open to the public. Daugherty said he wants the district to lead the state on the issue and plans to look at policies from other areas like Portland, Oregon. He added that he's open to changing other district policies if necessary.

Many community members came out in support of the resolution Wednesday, including Red Clay parent Josette Covington. She says her two children have witnessed racial inequity when it comes to discipline.

“And they’ve seen the discrepancies in the way black or Latino students – their friends – are disciplined versus some of their white students who might perform similar infractions or rule violations," Covington said.

Covington hopes the committee will make strides to address that, as well as implicit racism that can affect how students achieve, and how they themselves believe they can achieve.


“I’m just so happy and excited that somebody sees the light, and turning it on," said retired Red Clay teacher Pavia Fielder. "So that’s the beginning: we turned the light on, put the spotlight on it, and we can do something about it.”


Fielder is hopeful the committee will focus on the trauma and social emotional needs of low-income, minority students.

But others are skeptical.  Delaware State Education Association President Mike Matthews, also a Red Clay resident, worries one committee won’t be enough to address racism as well as issues affecting English Language Learners, LGBTQ students and those with disabilities.

"I support the action item to create an equity committee," Matthews said. "However, I have misgivings in considering the events of this past weekend in Charlottesville, I don’t think this is enough. The topics mentioned in the equity committee resolution – most of them are topics you can get people in a room to talk about. English language learners, LGBTQ, children with special needs. There’s one topic in that list that we as a society continue to not want to discuss. We need to start having conversations about race: conversations that for too long have been ignored because they make many people who look like me uncomfortable. I want to have those conversations. I’d like to see this board take a broader look at race, systemic racism, institutional racism – all of that on its own." 

Red Clay School Board Motion for Equity Committee and Policy -August 2017 by Delaware Public Media on Scribd

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