Roundtable talks racism in Snohomish Schools
SNOHOMISH — Racially insensitive remarks sometimes were heard in hushed voices and sometimes echoed in the halls of Snohomish Schools, students of color said during a recent roundtable talk on racism.
One shared her pain how a fellow student could be goaded to call her the “N-word” to make his friends laugh for a dollar. One dollar, is that all it takes?, she said at the panel talk set up by the group Snohomish for Equity.
Other students of color hear crude imitations of their accents and overt slurs, but don’t always have other kids nearby stick up for them. “Some don’t know how” to intervene, said Snohomish High junior Payton Odom.
Teachers at the meeting said they could use these tools, too, which is known as “bystander training.”
All at the Nov. 14 roundtable appeared encouraged to hear the school district is setting up a website to report racial bias incidents anonymously.
This website may go online next year, district spokeswoman Kristin Foley said.
Training and more teacher diversity can help within the district, parents and teachers.
“We need culturally responsive training for staff,” teacher Latisha Travis said.
Snohomish Schools Superintendent Kent Kultgen, who spoke in the roundtable held on Zoom, said the district is broadening out which job fairs where the school district recruits educators.
The district’s racial makeup of its educators was 92 percent White as of the 2018-2019 school year, according to data from the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. There were four Black teachers, seven Latino teachers and 17 Asian teachers teaching the district’s 10,000 or so students.
The district’s student makeup as of Oct. 1 this year is 75 percent White, 12 percent Latino, 5 percent Asian and 1 percent Black — or 107 students reporting as Black. A further 6.8 percent, or 672 students, reported they are biracial.
Comparatively, the city of Snohomish’s population, which is smaller than the district’s footprint, is 87 percent White, 9.7 percent Latino, 2.8 percent Asian, 0.4 percent Black and 4.4 percent reported having two or more races, according to U.S. Census data.
“Simply talking about race is insufficient,” Kultgen said. “Conversations need to fit in a larger framework in the entire district.”
He noted the district’s school board is undergoing cultural training. He also read a draft vision statement.
At the roundtable, more ideas suggested included hosting authentic cultural events and assemblies.
Parent Richa Dubey said when she presented about their family’s culture in her child’s elementary school, other students embraced her child better.
More than 1,600 people have viewed the roundtable video as of last week, according to Facebook metrics.
Here is the video:
"As Superintendent, it is my vision to provide space for conversation, reflection and learning to build a culture grounded in educational and racial equity. Our students and staff must have a safe, inclusive environment whereas learning occurs, and each enjoy a positive experience.
Systemic transformation for educational and racial equity must be grounded in intentional efforts to create and sustain a culture that values all members of our classrooms, schools and community.
This vital work does not align with the beginning or end of the school day, nor is it limited to classroom practice. Rather, our focus on educational and racial equity must impact the personal, professional, and organizational belief of our educators, the district and the community we serve. Our actions will be celebrated when equity becomes a mental model, a personal habit and a moral imperative to eliminate racial disparities of all our students.
Our work will be marked by vulnerability, being uncomfortable and giving our self and others grace. Success of our efforts will be marked by an intentional shift in the trajectory of our thoughts and actions that prioritize educational strategies ensuring educational and racial equity in every classroom of every school."
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