August 9, 2021
Dear LWSD School Board Directors,
Indivisible Kirkland is a progressive community organization with over 600 members. We care deeply about local civic engagement and have been actively engaged in the community since 2017. In the past, we have supported the district by advocating for LWSD levy and bond propositions.
We recognize and believe that the equity issues facing school boards and city councils on the Eastside are tremendously important. We firmly believe that school boards and city councils must take action to change the systems, structures and practices that allow inequity of outcomes to continue.
We would like to commend you on your efforts to create a Lake Washington School District School Board Equity Policy. The equity statement serves as a guidepost for the district’s equity work and a framework to focus on racial equity at all levels of the district. Embracing a clear and direct equity statement will help lead the way to a strong, anti-racist equity policy in the LWSD. We will fully support a strong, anti-racist policy.
As you know, the need for an equity policy becomes clear when looking at the racial gaps that exist in education in Washington (WA State School Directors’ Association):
- Black students make up 4.4% of students in WA’s public schools, but Black teachers make up only 1.5% of WA’s teachers;
- Black students who have one Black teacher by third grade are 13% more likely to enroll in college, and those who have two Black teachers by third grade are 32% more likely to enroll in college;
- Though Black students make up 4.4% of WA’s public school student body, they are 8.3% of the students excluded from class for disciplinary reasons, creating a racial discipline gap;
- Indigenous students make up 1.3% of WA school students, but are 7.7% of students excluded from class.
And, most importantly, LWSD youth have told stories of the racism that they have experienced in their lives as students. These stories are “proof” enough of the work that needs to be done. It is also important to listen to the voices of district stakeholders, Black families, Indigenous families and families of color. As an educational community, we must honor all of these voices and strive to create an anti-racist educational system. An equity policy is the first step in that process.
But not all equity policies are created equal. An equity policy must be strong and specifically indicate that it is in place to create an anti-racist educational environment. Some components of an anti-racist educational system include:
- Hiring racially, ethnically, and gender diverse staff;
- Allocating resources in a way that creates equity;
- Actively pursuing anti-racist curriculum;
- Engaging students and families in the learning and educational environment in a meaningful way;
- Academic and participation outcomes, not intentions, are the measures of success
- All staff, including administration and board directors, will receive ongoing anti-racism/anti-bias training;
- All volunteers in positions of authority, such as PTA members, club organizers, etc., also have the opportunity to receive anti-racism/anti-bias training;
- The racial gap in discipline tactics, including the policing of schools, is addressed, allowing all students to thrive as children.
The Lake Washington School District is a premier school district and should be a leader in creating a new kind of educational system that acknowledges that “educational equity can only exist when a student’s level of opportunity and achievement cannot be predicted based on race, characteristics, or circumstances” (WSSDA) and that creating this equity is truly the guiding light of education.