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South Lake Board resolves to ‘root out racism and ... prejudice’

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published July 2, 2020

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — Stating a belief that, “as educators grow, they must continue to reflect on and amend curricula, training, policies, and systemic practices used in schools to help root out racism and other forms of prejudice,” the South Lake Board of Education approved a Resolution to Eradicate Racism and to Create More Equitable and Inclusive Schools at its June 17 meeting.

“The board wanted to show ... that there would be action to follow, not just words,” said Superintendent Ted VonHiltmayer. “We’ve been working to this end for quite some time in South Lake. It’s not something new.”

The resolution went on to exhort educators to be lifelong learners about race and racism and that schools play a substantial role in promoting positive social change.

“Just as COVID-19 has changed how we think about work and life; so also should the death of George Floyd focus our attention on how we can fight racism, violence, and injustice while engaging with mutual respect,” it reads.

In addition to the resolution, the Board of Education issued a statement committing to a full review of the district’s policies and practices through the lens of equity; the development of measures to track equity progress that are not only based on academic achievement, but also on family connections to the community and schools; providing bias and equity training to staff and students; providing a forum for students of color to speak up for themselves and others; and holding South Lake to high standards of accountability to the community in meeting equity goals.

Board of Education Vice President Renard Morey-Greer wrote the draft of the board’s statement. He said it’s important for the community and other school districts to know that there is no place in South Lake Schools for racism and discrimination.

“The resolution spoke directly to the issue that so many citizens are working to address and combat — structural racism,” he said in an email. “I hope it reaffirms to everyone in our district and the surrounding communities that South Lake will continue to strive to be an inclusive community where all students, regardless of race and color, have an opportunity to succeed.”

Morey-Greer said that South Lake is not afraid to acknowledge that racial inequalities exist, but the district is committed to making real changes to achieve equity in its schools.

South Lake first offered outside professional development on racial issues about a decade ago, VonHiltmayer said. In the 2019 school year, the district brought in Huda Essa, the founder of Culture Links and a cultural competency consultant, to teach the staff about cultural proficiency and unconscious bias.

“Over the years, we’ve seen a change in our community. With that change, there’s been a need to look at some of the changes in our practices, changes in the way we think, because it doesn’t look exactly how it did 25 years ago when I started in South Lake,” he said. “We’ve been trying to meet the needs of our population, the needs of our community.”

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