School Board Questionnaire
The WCIA survey from a few years ago found that while two-thirds of residents acknowledge that incidents of racism, harassment and discrimination have occurred in the past, only one-third think they have been dealt with appropriately. If elected to the WCS Board what would you do to prevent racism, harassment and discrimination in our schools and to address them appropriately when reported to administration? In your view, how would the recommendations of the Citizens Advisory Committee report on Bullying be applicable here?
I would focus on fostering a school culture that actively combats racism and promotes inclusivity through education on cultural awareness and empathy. I would prioritize establishing a robust, confidential reporting system for discrimination incidents, coupled with a standardized, fair response protocol to handle reports effectively and transparently. Implementing the Citizens Advisory Committee’s anti-bullying recommendations would be crucial, particularly in developing clear policies, enhancing community education, and ensuring consistent enforcement.
Ongoing professional development for staff on cultural sensitivity and unconscious bias is essential to equip them with the right tools to support an inclusive environment. Finally, regular assessment of these strategies, with community feedback, will ensure our approach evolves and adapts, maintaining a safe, respectful educational setting for all students.
Board members must make it clear to the administration that creating a culture that proactively works to prevent racism, harassment and discrimination is a priority for the community (to be clear, I think this is already happening). The CAC report on Bullying makes 4 recommendations, several of which are applicable to the findings of the WCIA survey. Recommendation #1 calls upon the district to publish the number of bullying, harassment and intimidation incidents; not just those that reach the level of investigation. I think that this heightened level of transparency would help to build community trust. Recommendation #3 calls for the creation of an Anti-Bullying Committee at each school and I like the idea of including student voice, but I would want to see a more clearly defined structure and mandate. Finally, recommendation #4 discusses increased professional development for faculty and 4 student assemblies per year. While I support the concept of increased discourse on this topic and a systemic approach to anti-bullying, I find this recommendation to be overly prescriptive and would encourage best practices for implementation that are more reliant on staff, student and administrative insights.
As a member of the BOE I have and would continue to work on expanding the awareness regarding belonging-related issues, equipping teachers and administrators to identify and take appropriate actions, and enhancing the Climate & Culture within WCS so that the number of these incidents continues to decline. It’s important to acknowledge that not every detail of what is done to address a situation is known in some cases, because some things regarding students are confidential. It is thus important that parents with concern engage with school level administration and if necessary district administration, to confirm what is done, express expectations that our handbook is followed regarding how the situations are dealt with, and to encourage them to continue expanding the support for teachers and administrators taking the right actions to support sense of belonging in WCS. There is also the opportunity to address the BOE at any or every regular monthly meeting, usually on 4th Monday nights.
I am eager to hear the learnings from CAC committee’s look at Bullying. Any good ideas and recommendations will be applicable here. These teams do not set policy for WCS, but present findings, share ideas and recommendations, which the BOE and administration considers for appropriate next steps.
To combat racism, harassment, and discrimination in schools and to address them appropriately, it is crucial to establish a strong community partnership. Our schools reflect the values of Wyoming. They do not operate in isolation. The Board has a community partner in the CAC, Community Advisory Committee. CAC takes on 2-3 research topics each year then reports to the Board. Some reports are for information, some help shape further action, and some serve as background that may later affect school decisions. A CAC report on Bullying influenced changes: suspected and confirmed cases of bullying are published on our website, while information about the Safety Tip Hotline is both on our website and is relayed through individual school’s communications. Our strategic plan identified culture and social and emotional pillars that speak to behaviors associated with bullying. Actions to improve positive behaviors are noted in our strategic plan goals and evaluated on our scorecard.
Our school does not tolerate racism. We communicate our strongly held beliefs through board approved school policies, through board approved student handbooks that clearly delineate accepted behaviors, in our Belonging and Inclusion initiatives, in positive behavior activities (PBIS), and administrative guidelines. Absolutely, there must be due process and disciplinary action following our protocols. There must be authentic investigation. Additionally, by incorporating restorative practices, we support the learning climate of feeling valued, connected, and belonging. To quote a colleague, “Now you know better, you’ve got to do better.”
As a former civil rights attorney and current educator, I am strongly committed to creating an inclusive and equitable environment for all students to support their success. Deliberate and thoughtful measures are required to address harmful behavior in all school-related settings. To that end, it is essential to clearly set expectations for appropriate conduct in school activities and to teach critical thinking skills that challenge harmful acts of bias and stereotypes.
Specifically, it’s important to establish a culture where (1) individuals understand and view racism and unlawful harassment/discrimination as harmful behavior, not just personal opinions or attitudes, and (2) individuals witnessing or experiencing such harm understand their obligation to report the harm to appropriate authorities. When concerns are raised, our standards must be enforced consistently based on a prompt and thorough investigation of the facts. To have credibility, the process must ensure that all voices are truly heard and addressed in a fair and consistent manner. To the extent we do not meet these expectations, I would welcome discussions on how we can do better.