Equity Is Not a Cliché
By Deborah L. Kerr
/School Administrator, February 2020
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
Last fall, it happened again — the marginalization of our Brown Deer students while competing in an athletic contest sanctioned by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association. White football players from the opposing school directed the “N” word at our quarterback and other students of color on our team. The white referees were nonresponsive and complacent.
The coaches and athletic directors from both schools investigated the matter with no final resolution. Although the administrators and coach from the opposing team apologized, no apology has come from the students who were responsible for the slurs. Where was the lesson learned?
As adults who are responsible for ensuring the safety of all children, we cannot turn a blind eye to ongoing, blatant racism. Acts of verbal or physical aggression are unacceptable and should not be tolerated by anyone at any time. It is unlikely the guilty students on the other side of the field have ever or will ever be subjected to the degradation that our students feel on a regular basis. They never will understand the negative power of that word because their race and/or socioeconomic status allow them to navigate a society where they are never second-guessed, where they do not have to work twice as hard to be considered just as good.
The incident I described is not an isolated one. Our students have been marginalized repeatedly because of the color of their skin. As superintendent of Brown Deer, I am speaking my truth. My scholar-athletes are speaking their truth. Enough is enough. It is time to hold school district leaders accountable for the actions of their students. We must become allies in this work so that all our students feel loved and supported. If we are silent, we are complicit in endorsing these kinds of behaviors.
Our Call to Action
Commit to eliminate the persistent inequities and marginalization of our students in all our school communities.
Disrupt this egregious behavior and hold all adults responsible for making a change.
Teach our young people that racism is never acceptable at any place at any time.
Create opportunities to engage students in diverse learning environments and situations that will help them understand the value of various perspectives.
Develop school board equity policies that support much-needed values of character and explicitly state non-negotiables for conduct.
Engage our parents in efforts to better understand what diversity and closing achievement gaps are all about.
Learn from other diverse school communities how they collectively engage in discussions about race, marginalization and inequities.
Thankfully, members of our athletic conference are working together to create a discrimination and harassment protocol and the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association has implemented a protocol for all state tournament play.
We all need to be part of the solution and we must be willing to act to eliminate disparities. As Martin Luther King Jr., wrote, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” We should all choose love to empower education for all our young people. Leaders who value equity, act on diversity and inclusion and encourage divergent ways of thinking are the ones who will change the face of education forever.
is AASA president in 2019-20. Twitter: @DrDLKerr