Residents were given an opportunity to express their opinions about Farmington Public Schools’ 21 Day Equity Challenge at a Board of Education meeting at North Farmington High School Jan. 11.

Residents were given an opportunity to express their opinions about Farmington Public Schools’ 21 Day Equity Challenge at a Board of Education meeting at North Farmington High School Jan. 11.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Farmington Board of Education, community members address 21 Day Equity Challenge

By: Mark Vest | Farmington Press | Published January 21, 2022

 A woman speaks at a protest prior to a Farmington Public Schools Board of Education meeting at North Farmington High School Jan. 11. The protest was in response to the district’s 21 Day Equity Challenge.

A woman speaks at a protest prior to a Farmington Public Schools Board of Education meeting at North Farmington High School Jan. 11. The protest was in response to the district’s 21 Day Equity Challenge.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Advertisement

FARMINGTON HILLS — After Farmington Public Schools posted a “21 Day Equity Challenge” on the district’s website, supporters and critics had an opportunity to express their views at a Board of Education meeting at North Farmington High School Jan. 11.

Some aspects of the challenge created controversy, both inside and outside of the district.

The challenge was optional and open to adult community members, according to the district. It was launched in November and has since been removed from the district’s website.

According to a release from the district, “Students were not involved in this community-based activity.”

A couple of aspects of the challenge that drew the most attention were encouragement to join a Black Lives Matter protest in an effort to understand equity, and discouragement from calling the United States a land of opportunity, which was called a micro-aggression.

Prior to the school board meeting, the Oakland County Republican Party, Farmington Kids First and some parents held a protest outside of North Farmington High.

The meeting itself lasted more than four hours, with a large section of that time devoted to public comments, which allowed for members of the public to address board members.

The board, which did not directly respond to comments, heard a mixture of support and opposition to the challenge.

Prior to the public comments section, Board of Education President Terri Weems addressed those in attendance.

She said the information contained in the challenge came from a “variety of sources.”

The release states that, “The Equity Challenge was fashioned after the United Way of Southeast Michigan’s 21 Day Equity Challenge but was curated to contain information about the very diverse population within our own community.”

The release further states that, “Scientist Maxwell Maltz says that 21 days is the amount of time needed to create a habit. Accordingly, 21 Day Equity challenges are designed to offer participants the chance to deliberately focus on issues of equity on a daily basis.”

At the meeting, Weems thanked Superintendent Chris Delgado for embracing diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as the district’s assistant superintendent of DEI, Bobbie Goodrum, for “curating the resources for this 21-day challenge and creating a brave space for our community to come together and share discussions that can sometimes be uncomfortable.”

Weems discussed another part of the challenge that met with criticism.

“Another action that generated concern was the suggestion to donate bail efforts for peacefully protesting injustices,” she said. “We support peaceful protests, including those of our students.”

Weems said there are no plans to discontinue DEI efforts.

“At FPS, our education professionals, parents and students believe it is important for our students to understand the civic responsibilities of integrity, honesty, fairness, justice and respect for the dignity and understanding of individuals, groups, communities and the world,” she said. “As we become increasingly diverse in our society, and as the world continues to change, it is important to become culturally competent to effectively live and collaborate with people of different racial, cultural and ethnic backgrounds.”

Those who wanted to make a public comment were informed they had two minutes to do so.

One of the speakers was former Michigan House of Representatives member Rocky Raczkowski.

“I’m here as a former representative and a longtime resident of a district that raised me with my immigrant parents, and I’m here to stand in disgust of what I read in the 21 Day Equity Challenge,” he said. “If this is not a land of opportunity, I don’t know what it is. My mother was in a Nazi labor camp. My dad was in a Nazi labor camp. This country gave them freedom and opportunity, and for the school district to say that saying the United States is a land of opportunity is a micro-aggression, that’s what I stand to fight against.”

Another speaker had a different point of view.

“We wanna commend Dr. Goodrum for leading the 21 Day Equity Challenge, and our district leaders for supporting this wonderful optional opportunity for adults in our community to learn and discuss issues of equity,” she said. “This challenge is just one of the ways in which this board and current administration are making our schools more equitable and inclusive. … We know this equity challenge is one of many initiatives that you’re leading in the district, and your foresight to engage the community shows it’s your desire to re-imagine our district to be leaders.”

After reciting part of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, another resident addressed the board.

“Sadly, it is evident that the Farmington Public School District is trampling on the great legacy he left behind, attempting to bring segregation back through the 21 Day Equity Challenge, including a checklist to affirm white privilege,” the speaker stated. “That doesn’t sound very inclusive to me.”

Another offered support for the FPS board.

“I’m here to applaud the Farmington school board decision to encourage participation in the 21 Day Equity Challenge, and for being the first community in our county to provide this opportunity for adults to broaden (their) perspective, engage in dialogue, and study racial equity and inclusion,” she said. “Diversity, equity and inclusion should not be political concepts, but American ones.”

Another resident also shared a message of support for the board.

“I applaud you for everything that you’re doing and standing up for inclusion,” he said. “There is a way to have this debate and know that we come from different sides, but realize that history has to be told truthfully. … We have to be inclusive.”

Other residents were not convinced that the challenge was inclusive.

“Unity should be the goal, and by focusing on division (and) divisive ideology, it does a big disservice to our whole community,” said a Farmington Hills resident.

Another resident shared a similar sentiment.

“This 21 Day Challenge isn’t educating people, it’s selling them their own oppression,” she said. “Why would you do that to people? … Stop creating diversion and create unity.”

At the meeting, Delgado shared his perspective on the intent of the challenge.

“The challenge was intended to be interactive, with daily reflection posts that were monitored by staff, and weekly Zoom meetings to discuss, debate and have dialogue about the topics,” he said. “It was never intended to stand alone, because absent the context and the dialogue, individual pieces could be misinterpreted or even misrepresented. But let me be clear, as your new superintendent, I am 100% committed to moving our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts forward, because those words have meaning.”

Advertisement