West Contra Costa Unified responds to reports of racism in schools
West Contra Costa Unified plans to hold town hall listening sessions for students and adults and develop anti-racist staff training and policies in response to students sharing instances of racism on campus at recent school board meetings.
The Black student unions at the district’s high schools have reached out to district officials with reports of anti-Black racism and prejudice felt by students throughout the district. At a school board meeting on March 15, Superintendent Kenneth “Chris” Hurst said he wanted to acknowledge the students’ experiences and share what the district is doing about it.
Anti-racist leadership development specialist Rachelle Rogers-Ard will be working with the district to host listening sessions for students and adults, Hurst said. Rogers-Ard will gather data from those listening sessions and provide an analysis to the district and board on racism, prejudice and discrimination at West Contra Costa Unified schools, as well as recommendations for “equity-based work,” Hurst said.
Rachelle Rogers-Ard will also help the district develop its equity statement and anti-racist stance, Hurst said, and staff training around those policies.
“We want everyone who comes to our district to understand what we mean by equity,” Hurst said.
School board member Jamela Smith-Folds said this work is crucial tin efforts to reduce the number of Black students and teachers who leave the district every year.
“We lost so many Black teachers in this district every year because they don’t feel supported; we lose so many Black students in this district every year because they don’t feel seen, heard or supported,” Smith-Folds said. “…We are an anti-racist district, and if you can’t get in line with that, this is not the place for you to work or send your children or anything else. We need to make a statement of who we are and put actions behind who we are.”