Security, education and whether blacks are represented dominated conversations among members of a Jefferson County School Board ad hoc Race and Equity policy subcommittee meeting on Tuesday.
The group met to discuss possible policy changes in the Jefferson County Public School system. The meeting came on the same day as more than 100 students at DuPont Manual High School staged a sit-in protest over derogatory comments made by that school’s principal, Jerry Mayes, toward people of color and transgender students. The school’s Black Student Union has called for Mayes’ ouster.
The Board of Education subcommittee is discussing creating a race and equity policy for the district. The proposed policy includes requiring mandatory professional development for school staff to address biases and racial disparities, creating strategies to attract diverse teachers, administrators and personnel, and redesigning curriculums to include contributions and the historical relevance of other non-white cultures. This is meant to, among other goals, increase participation among minority students and close the gap between the highest and lowest-performing students.
University of Louisville professor Ahmad Washington presented to the subcommittee on Tuesday. He commended Manual’s protesting students, saying Mayes’ comments and the tasing of a black student at Jeffersontown High School are two of many similar incidents that should prompt major changes.
“These aren’t isolated incidents,” Washington said. “I talk to students all the time at various schools, and they have more than a few stories to talk about the type of antagonism that they experience. If the actual structure, the policies and the institution doesn’t transform, these sorts of issues will continue to reverberate and reappear in the future.”
Tuesday’s subcommittee could push changes through its policy suggestions, which are reviewed and possibly approved as part of the JCPS Board of Education’s district-wide policy. Washington said the subcommittee’s goal is to create a policy encouraging equality and equity for JCPS students and teachers.
Those changes would directly affect Jaylen Gordon, who is an African-American senior at Fern Creek High School.
Gordon said when he started high school, he felt uncomfortable with the lack of black representation at Fern Creek High.
Gordon said the policy suggestions outlined Tuesday are a good start to addressing the disparities he’s seen in school, but it will need more work.
“I don’t feel like, in past years, the district has taken issues like this as serious,” Gordon said. “[The policy’s] going to take a lot of work because some things have to be developed to the way that kids learn now. Also, you have to work with how teachers are going to be compatible with this.”
The subcommittee next meets Nov. 29 to continue revising the policy before it’s submitted for review. After three meetings, the subcommittee will dissolve.
Those with suggestions for the race and equity policy can submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org. The group’s meetings are open to the public.