Keep the momentum going

Central Valley. The organizers of the recent Black Lives Matter in Monroe meet with Monroe-Woodbury School District to advance an agenda of change.

01 Jul 2020 | 04:35

On June 15th, the founders of the Hudson Valley Change Coalition met with officials of the Monroe-Woodbury School District for a 2.5-hour conference on diversifying the curriculum, reevaluating current disciplinary practices and holding students and teachers accountable for racial targeting and discrimination in the classroom.

The Hudson Valley Change Coalition (HVCC) is an initiative that was founded by the creators of the recent Black Lives Matter protest in Monroe, where 700 people attended. The protest was sparked by a single tweet from Shelby Seth, one of the founders of HVCC, and a 2016 Monroe-Woodbury alumni.

“We wanted to keep the momentum that we saw from the protest going,’” Seth said. “After seeing so many young people and older adults within the Monroe community passionate about social justice we decided to create HVCC.”

HVCC founders Chris Omar, Sky Arroyo and Suhi Saran helped Seth organize the Monroe protest as well as create the agenda brought to the meeting with school officials. The agenda lists methods to actively dismantle racism in the classroom, such as employee recruitment focused on diversity, creating media literacy classes and initiating diversity and inclusion lessons.

“I feel we were listened to, however it was very much as a sense of appeasement,” Seth said. “Incidences of racial targeting and bullying in Monroe-Woodbury are not new. I feel like time and time again the administration wants to save face in a politically correct way as to not upset the community.”

Monroe-Woodbury Superintendent of Schools Elsie Rodriquez was unavailable for comment. However, Carole Spendley, the district’s communications coordinator, said that Rodriquez and the rest of the district was looking into HVCC’s agenda.

“She’s listening,” Spendley said. “She’s been talking to parents, groups similar to HVCC and the local community. She’s getting feedback and putting a plan together in accordance.”

Hudson Valley Change Coalition’s agenda
On June 15, the Hudson Valley Change Coalition met with Monroe-Woodbury School officials to propose an agenda. Here is that agenda:
- Aggressive recruitment and hiring focused on diversity.
- Many M-W alumni had their first educator of color in college.
- Sustained Anti-Racism, Implicit Bias and Sensitivity training required yearly for all Monroe-Woodbury employees.
- For MW CARES Day, make social justice and anti-racism a major portion of the event.
- Form a special committee on equity and anti-racism policies/procedures consisting of students, teachers, alumni, parents and administration.
- In the wake of a racially charged incident, ensure that all parents/guardians are fully aware via letter/phone call sent home.
- Example: https://www.warwickvalleyschools.com/community-message-incident/
- Hold a Board of Education meeting quarterly with a focus on racial equality and how M-WSD can hold itself accountable.
- Revamped K-12 curriculum especially in English, Social Studies, Media Literacy, Economics and Health.
- Media Literacy: teach students about using social media effectively, the dangers of misinformation, how to fact check, etc.
- Teachers should not be taking a neutral stance on slavery or police brutality.
- Acknowledge that some history may cause discomfort, but it is still crucial to a well-rounded education.
- Replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day on the district’s calendar.
- Reevaluate budget spent on SRO in schools, and reallocate funding towards social workers, counselors and pyschologists.
- Ensure that SROs are not to be involved in the discipline of students.
- Experts say that there is no evidence proving that SRO’s make school a safer place and often have unintended consequences for students of color as a form of discipline.
- Diversity and Inclusion lessons and assemblies focusing on the history of racism, microaggressions, and implicit bias for all students.
- In collaboration with the Woodbury Police Department, make the STOP program a mandatory class in order for seniors to get a parking permit, which will help educate students on what to do when being pulled over by the police, to assure the safety of both the student and the officer, as well as a basic education on the rights you have when encountered by the police.
- Reevaluate K-12 discipline practices
- Hold all students, faculty, and staff equally responsible for their actions.
- Edit student handbooks K-12 adding a provision into the anti-bullying section about hate speech such as racist, homophobic and sexist slurs.
- Do not take into consideration an individual’s ability to provide monetary and/or physical resources to the school district when deciding on a punishment for misconduct.
- Add a clause in all of the school handbooks on how to foster an anti-racist environment.
- Ban discriminatory language and the usage of all racial slurs.
- Ban symbols of hate including but not only limited to the confederate flag and swastikas.
- Modify the handbook to state that all natural and protective hairstyles will be accepted and embraced. Consistent with the California and New York Crown Act, these hairstyles include but are not limited to dreadlocks, braids, twists and any other styles that may hold cultural significance (durags).
- Education on cultural appropriation, especially in fashion, music, film, etc.