RPS discusses potential changes to Equity Policy

[anvplayer video=”5096129″ station=”998128″]

(ABC 6 News) – Rochester Public Schools held a study session to discuss how to incorporate more diverse lessons and to acknowledge diversity and equity in the classroom Tuesday night.

A nearly two-hour open discussion with the school board, teachers, and staff from the district let everyone’s voices be heard.

Diversity and equity have been topics of discussion within the RPS district and the community over the past six years. Data that has been released shows discipline disparities among white and non-white students.

"In 2020, the spreadsheet says very clearly that 42 percent of all students who were expelled were children of color," Kamau Wilkins, President of Rochester For Justice, said. "One of the pieces that our district has had a really hard time with and early on was admitting that we had this problem."

RPS staff said there is a lack of diversity not only in the student population but also among the staff.

"In my 20-year career at Rochester Public School district, it’s no secret that there’s a lack of diversity," Yahe Ahmed, an Equity Specialist at Mayo High School, said.

Teachers and staff weighed in on how diversity can be better incorporated into lessons and to help students with diverse backgrounds succeed in school. Whether it’s music teachers incorporating different cultures into their curriculum or allowing more elective classes with topics on diversity to be offered.

"If they’re in a place where they feel welcomed and they feel seen because of what we’re teaching, we know that they will achieve better," Natalia Benjamin, an English Learner and Ethnic Studies teacher at Century High School, said.

The RPS Equity Statement is reviewed every year. The next review is this June.

"If the Equity Policy in any way does need modification to help project your work forward, or if there is additional language or additional revisions, we need to hear that," Vice Chair of RPS Board, Cathy Nathan, said,

Teachers and staff said they want more Professional Development (PD), or training in diversity and equity.

The board and staff agree this is not a one size fits all solution.

In the meantime, staff who are impacted by how the Equity Policy is implemented and will give their input, then it will go to the board.

The timing of when the board will review any changes to the policy is not known yet.