Directors Camille Diaz Hackler and Doug Benjamin recently talked about the school board’s plan to develop an equity policy.
Why is the board considering an equity policy?
DOUG BENJAMIN: Our strategic plan The Bellingham Promise makes references to “every child,” or “all children” three times. Every child means every child. If anyone is marginalized, in any way, we are not consistent with The Promise vision. An equity policy is about being intentional to teach, support and help anyone who is marginalized in any way because of who they are based on race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, learning differences, poverty or religion.
CAMILLE DIAZ HACKLER: We are all equal and we all deserve the same basic human rights. Just as it’s important for teachers to be role models, it’s also important for the board to be role models. With this policy, I think we model for our community, district, schools and classrooms that our whole foundation is built on equitable experiences within our district.
How could an equity policy impact our students and our schools?
DOUG BENJAMIN: It means we’re going to have to find more and better ways to measure student progress than standardized tests. Standardized assessments can be lacking and, in many cases, they can make our challenges related to inclusion worse. But I think this is an opportunity. As a board, we’ve progressed beyond just focusing on quantitative data. We have a strong interest in qualitive demonstrations of student achievement.
CAMILLE DIAZ HACKLER: I think an equity policy may mean improved graduation rates. So many of our students who don’t make it to the finish line are marginalized. I think all parents and teachers look to the district to lead. They also want our work to reflect what they, as a community, want.
DOUG BENJAMIN: This is about demonstrating love for every child. As school board directors, we don’t work for the school district, we represent the stakeholders in the community. Our community wants their children to be in an environment that is all inclusive.