Equity Issues Provoke County-Wide Concern

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Equity Issues Provoke County-Wide Concern

Written by Mia Cammarota and Carissa Vergeres

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New concerns regarding equity, diversity, and inclusion practices in Loudoun County Public Schools surfaced in a recent report submitted to Superintendent Eric Williams. The issues spurred an investigative report in a recent edition of The Washington Post and has sparked discussions and change county wide.

Loudoun County is known for its wealth and quality public school system.  Making up the majority of LCPS population, 46% of students identify as white;  23% as Asian, 18% as Hispanic, 7% as African American, and 6% list themselves as multiracial. Resulting from the larger percentage of white students, a sizeable portion progress through high school seemingly unaware of any racism and division. This has caused a rift in the inclusion of cultures; many are either ignored, or included in a desensitized manner.

This is exemplified in a report released by LCPS where an anonymous student from a high school in the county described an interaction with a teacher where a negative racial comment was said. “There was something in a book about Arabs and the teacher said – All Arabs are terrorists. I raised my hand and said, ‘I am Arab and I am not a terrorist.’ She just stared at me.”

Exchanges between students are not the only concern, but teachers’ remarks towards students as well. In order to inform teachers about equity and keep comments like this from being said, LCPS has established an equity committee.

Taking action from this report, the 2019-2020 school year was the first where a three-module equity competence training was required for all principals, assistant principals, deans, and DOI staff. New positions have been created in light of this situation, including an Equity and Cultural Competence Specialist and Director of Equity. LCPS is seeing fit that organizations and clubs are being formed, such as Asian American Chamber of Commerce and Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce, on behalf of minority populations.

“LCPS rejects racist and other hateful behavior and language, recognizing that it encourages discrimination, hatred, oppression, and violence,” said Superintendent Williams in his Statement on Equity about his goals for Loudoun’s school system. Equity teams have popped up in schools all around the county in the last few years to make sure this is taking place.

Starting about seven months ago, LCPS began new equity training for the school staff, including Woodgrove. Here, an equity team has been formed that has gone through five half-day sessions to learn how to deal with implicit bias and handle various situations regarding inclusion. Clubs including We’re All Human, Gay Straight Alliance, Global Ambassasdors and many more have been formed with the intention of accounting for all races, cultures, beliefs and sexual orientations at Woodgrove.

Member of the Equity Committee and Assistant Principal at Woodgrove Don Keener commented on the growth of  different organizations at Woodgrove focusing on equity saying, “We need to be welcoming to everyone around us… It is awareness we need so that everyone feels accepted with their beliefs, cultures and race.”

At the behest of the school system, Woodgrove held an equity meeting last spring where minority students were chosen to discuss equity at Woodgrove and within the county. The results of this meeting, and others around the county, led to the publication of the initial report. According to students who attended the meeting, the  main discussion points at Woodgrove were about racist toward minority students from peers and sometimes staff members.

West Virginia Wesleyan student and recent Woodgrove graduate Courtney Shorts attended the meeting. She said, “I don’t think it was a coincidence that I was called during the summit. At the time I was really involved with Global Ambassadors and even spoke at the school wide event, and since I am African American, the staff thought I would be great for the equity meeting.”

Senior Maryam Khan, who also was also present at the summit, still feels somewhat ambivalent about the outcome of the meeting, saying, “As awkward as it was, there was a sense of familiarity because we were all uniting under the same issues.”

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