Residents Urge D308 Board To Commit To Racial Equity

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OSWEGO, IL — “I’m hoping as my children return to an in-school environment, that they’re going to be perceived, valued, and know that this is a great place to be,” said Kijuana Boulrece, an Oswego School District 308 parent, during the Sept. 14 Board of Education meeting.

She was one of three speakers that evening who urged the district to commit to racial equality and equity, as well as to be more inclusive.

“I look around at this school board, our elected officials and I see many of you whom I elected,” Boulrece said. “And I am here today to voice my concern as a parent as well as a civil rights activist. Equity is not a novel idea to District 308. We’ve been dealing with equality and equity, putting in plans since 2008. Plans were revamped in 2018, and we have seen limited progress.”

She also said she was disappointed with the district’s lack of outreach efforts in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other members of the Black community.

“Our nation, our state, our county, we were rocked with the actions of George Floyd, not only with that, we were also met with the pandemic. But what was our response as a school district, how can we lead?” she said.

Boulrece said that she has waited for the school district to come out with a statement, just as many neighboring districts have done. She said that she had written letters to school board members and to Superintendent John Sparlin asking for a statement, a resolution to a commitment for equity for all students and overcoming systemic racism and ending racial injustice.

“…making this a place where all students, Black students, Hispanic students, students with disabilities, students who have issues yet to be diagnosed, that they feel good in this district,” she said.

Another OSD308 community member, Tonya Harris, commented on The Black Student Association at Oswego East High School during the meeting. She said that there are still some unfair and unjust practices in place.

In the past, it has always been up to the students to find a sponsor for the Black student organization., but this time, the OEHS administration went outside the district and picked someone instead.

Harris also said that D308 has yet to put out a statement of unity, solidarity, and zero tolerance for racism. The district has to set the tone for when the students return to the buildings.

“Our Black students are living and seeing racism at an all-time high and as a parent, I would like to see the administration at OEHS to be transparent,” she said.

Sparlin did in fact publish a letter to the district’s website following the civil unrest spurred by Floyd’s death.

“Amidst this time of pain and anguish, it’s difficult to adequately put our feelings into words. We acknowledge that our community, our country, and our world are hurting,” he wrote in the letter. “It is important, especially at this point, to reaffirm that we believe students should always feel safe, valued, celebrated and respected by their teachers, school personnel, classmates, and community.”

Sparlin wrote that it is the district’s responsibility “to build a culture that does not merely tolerate diversity and differences, but rather welcomes and values it.”

The third speaker at the meeting, Pamela Hampton, talked about the alarming rate of Black students that are suspended in this district. She believes the following are benefits of a restorative justice practices:

  • Provides a layer of student support to correct behavior
  • Boosts retention, matriculation, and graduation rates
  • Builds social emotional development
  • Eliminates the heightened sense of distrust between Black students and white teachers
  • There is Restorative Justice funding available to school districts

Hampton asked the board to consider hiring a restorative practices counselor at every junior high school in the district.

Following these comments from the public, Board President Lauri Doyle said she understands that the community needs more and that new members are being added to the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee.

Established in 2008, the committee works to find ways to give student and community voices a platform to be heard and then to build positive change. The DEI committee currently consists of community members, parents, students, district and school administrators, and members of the D308 Board of Education. The group also features resources for parents to discuss race, racism and prejudice on the district website.

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October 1, 2020 at 12:25PM

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