Stevenson High hires diversity director after racial controversies

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With racial disparity at the front of the nation’s consciousness, Lincolnshire’s Stevenson High School has hired a director of equity, diversity and inclusion.

Veteran Chicago-area educator LeViis Haney will be an advocate for students from diverse backgrounds, and he’ll suggest policy changes to promote diversity and inclusion, officials said.

Haney also will work with the administration to recruit, hire, and mentor faculty members who aren’t white.

"Dr. Haney will be instrumental in helping to support our students as we continue to navigate the important conversations around ethnicity and race," Superintendent Eric Twadell said.

Haney’s hiring, approved by the school board last week, comes after multiple allegations of racism have been levied against Stevenson staffers and students.

Haney is aware of the controversies and said he supports the district’s intent to ensure "an inclusive, safe environment" for every student.

"In order to accomplish this lofty goal, it will require the full collaboration and support of the entire Stevenson community — faculty, staff, students, families and community members," Haney said.

Issues at Stevenson

Racial issues have been a source of conversation and protest since the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May. They’ve also been a source of controversy at Stevenson.

In June, a Stevenson dean resigned after he was accused of acting disrespectfully toward a Black student in an encounter captured on video.

In July, some people were outraged when photos of a student dressed as a Ku Klux Klan member during a Halloween party several years ago circulated on social media.

Additionally, complaints were publicly levied about a now-former employee’s social media activity concerning race and gender.

People also have turned to social media to describe difficulties Black students face at Stevenson.

As of last year, nearly 55% of Stevenson’s student population was white, according to Illinois report card data. Of the rest, about 32% of students were Asian, about 8% were Hispanic, 2% were Black and about 3% were multiracial.

The disparity was greater among Stevenson’s teachers, the data showed. As of last year, nearly 92% were white, 4% were Asian, less than 3% were Hispanic and less than 1% were Black.

Making a change

Twadell, Principal Troy Gobble and Sarah Bowen, Stevenson’s director of student services, addressed the school’s racial issues in a recent email to parents and students that’s now posted on the school’s website. They vowed to support students who have been "historically marginalized, muted, and mistreated."

"Racism will not be tolerated and will be confronted at Stevenson High School," they said. "We will work relentlessly to ensure that our school is a safe and inclusive environment for all students, families, faculty and staff."

Haney’s hiring is part of that effort.

Haney, who is Black, comes to Stevenson from Rich Central High School in South suburban Olympia Fields, where he’s been principal. He also is an adjunct professor at Northeastern Illinois University.

Haney previously worked at schools in Kenilworth and Chicago.

On his LinkedIn page, Haney describes himself as "a social justice advocate and leader."

Twadell called Haney "an outstanding school leader" who has been "a successful leader of equity, diversity and inclusion work."

Haney is set to start at Stevenson on Aug. 17, the first day of classes for the 2020-21 term. He’ll earn $167,500 this year as part of a two-year contract, officials said.

When asked about the complaints of racism and bias at the school, Haney said Stevenson officials are addressing those issues "with a sense of urgency."

"I am very encouraged by the commitment made by this community and district to tackle this important issue with courage and candor," he said.

26-Delivered

via Daily Herald

August 10, 2020 at 06:41AM

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