In direct response to the Black Lives Matter movement, the Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School District officially rejected “all forms of racism and discrimination” last week with the board’s unanimous passage of a resolution to develop a strategic plan for equality in education.

“The board drafted this in response to several events taking on society currently,” Board President Phil Rankin said of the Resolution of Commitment to Equity and Excellence in Education.

The resolution states that racism and discrimination are “destructive to the district’s mission, vision, values and goals.”

Mr. Rankin thanked board members for their drafting of the resolution, stating, “It puts forward a very good structure and guideline for our commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

Superintendent Robert Hunt explained that the district has had a committee in place to address diversity issues that was led by former Assistant Superintendent Lisa Shannon. The committee included initiatives during the 2018-19 school year that focused on bullying and harassment as well as administrative and staff training.

He said the district planned to “roll in” the initiatives into a strategic plan during the 2019-20 school year, but that was cut short by the COVID-19 outbreak and its resulting school building closures.

As of June 17, Dr. Hunt said he had already begun vetting potential consultants for the implementation of the strategic plan.

What is called the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan will work to achieve seven “guiding principles.” Dr. Hunt and District Treasurer Ashley Brudno will oversee the implementation of the plan and are to present implementation plans at a future BOE meeting.

The principles, according to the resolution, include supporting a welcoming and inclusive educational experience with special attention to students of marginalized or under-represented populations; enforcing prevention of racism, discrimination and inequities; dismantling “any existing policies, practices or culture that perpetuate structural racism or discrimination;” providing culturally relevant curricula for students and teachers; facilitating equal access to district programs and services; implementing hiring from an expanded applicant pool for under-represented groups; and engaging, including and collaborating with members of the district to achieve the district’s goals.

“This is ongoing work in the district, and the board anticipates that this would remain an ongoing initiative,” board member Kathryn Garvey said. “[This] was really crafted with the idea that it is not sufficient to simply be not racist or not discriminatory, that we understand that we need to be anti-racist and anti-discriminatory, and a lot of the work that we’re going to undertake will be to seek out any issues in the district and address them.”

Sam Cottrill started reporting for the Times in February 2019 and covers Auburn, Bainbridge, Bentleyville and Chagrin, Kenston, Solon and West Geauga schools. She graduated from Kent State University in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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