Parents, educators tell State School Board why addressing equity, diversity in schools matters prior to board’s 2-hour debate on defining equity

The Utah State Board of Education building in Salt Lake City is pictured on Tuesday, March 31, 2020.

The Utah State Board of Education building in Salt Lake City is pictured on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Parents, educators and community members urged the Utah State Board of Education to adopt a definition of equity and to support teacher training in diversity, equity and inclusion. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Students need to learn how to talk about race ‘out loud and not in whispered profanity,’ Weber County mom tells board

More than a dozen parents, educators and community members addressed the Utah State Board of Education Thursday urging the board to adopt a definition of equity and to support teacher training in diversity, equity and inclusion.

Briawna Hugh, the mother of four biracial children and an educator, said Utah is not doing enough to address issues of race and equity.

“We live in a culture that is dominated by a specific ideology. It’s not a bad ideology but it definitely caters to a specific kind of student and a specific kind of family. Since moving here five years ago, our biracial family has been on the receiving end of experiences that range from ignorant comments to flat-out racist actions. When reported to the teachers and administration, they were a loss for how to handle the situations,” Hugh said.

Generally speaking, her children’s teachers and administrators care about them, she said.

“But their failure to show up for my children in those moments of deep hurt tells me that we are not doing enough to address the racial issues in this state,” she said.

Sherilyn Fuhriman, a mother of four from Weber County, described the experiences of her youngest child, who was adopted from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Some of her son’s teachers have reached out to her family for recommendations on literature and asked their advice how to handle sensitive classroom discussions on the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

“And yet, school is the only place in my son’s 16 years where he has been called the N-word,” she said.

Children need help understanding the value of people’s differences, Fuhriman said.

“They need to learn ways to talk about race out loud and not in whispered profanity,” she said.

Tony Zani, literacy specialist and instructional coach at Salt Lake’s Rose Park Elementary School, said when he started teaching more than 20 years ago, he was told to be “colorblind” and treat everyone the same.

The message was “everyone should be like me,” said Zani.

“At Rose Park, most of our students are students of color and they represent a wonderful variety of cultures. Fortunately for our students, we aren’t trying to be colorblind. We are working to reject racism and to honor every student’s race and culture. Students at Rose Park are more invested in school because the teachers honor the students for exactly who they are,” he said.

While the board took no action on professional development regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion, the matter was referred to the board’s executive committee with a request to assign its Standards and Assessment Committee to develop a proposed board rule.

But the board spent …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Utah News

      

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