Meeting Minutes ~ November 16, 2022

Action Ridge General Meeting

November 16, 2022

Meeting began at 7:10pm.

Nan welcomed the students and sponsors from SOAR (Students Organized Against Racism) and gave a quick overview about Action Ridge. In attendance were three SOAR students from Maine South, two faculty advisors to the Maine South SOAR group, and one faculty advisor to the Maine East SOAR group.

SOAR educates the student population about racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of identity-based discrimination. SOAR also helps students navigate different identities (intersectionality.) They discuss how to address derogatory language, microaggressions, and students using the n-word. The group emphasizes that it is not enough to be “not racist”; the school community needs to be anti-racist.

Maine South SOAR has about 20 members in all. Several recently made a presentation to the School Superintendents Association and the group has been invited to speak at a conference in New York. The groups have interaction with peers at other local schools and recently attended a retreat together.

Maine East SOAR has 8 to 10 members. They enacted change at the school by advocating that students receiving free lunches shouldn’t have to stand in a separate line, which could stigmatize them.

All students at Maine South receive lessons on diversity, equity, and inclusion once a month in their “advisory” group, which meets weekly. The SOAR students did not think that the delivery was particularly effective, though. Smaller groups may be more appropriate.

There is a district equity leadership team (DELT) and each of the schools has a building equity leadership team (BELT). A group of parents/community members has also organized to support the equity initiatives at Maine South (Maine South Community for Equity).

The students shared examples of teachers and students using racist language or behaving in ways that discriminated against students of color. An adult attendee who has a child at Maine South talked about a racist incident that happened at the school to his son who is Black. Both the parent and the students talked about incidents of harassment of students with autism by other students.

The SOAR group had specific examples of how Action Ridge members and other adults in the community can help work towards equity in Park Ridge. They include 1) interrupting biased language or discriminatory actions when they happen, and 2) gathering data about racist incidents in the wider community. The students believe that having this data and presenting it

to the school community would lend weight to their efforts, particularly if it was presented by authoritative figures like elected officials or the police.

There are different layers of teacher training in Maine Township and they are school specific. At Maine South, there is regular training—at the school and department level—about how teachers must act to foster diversity, equity and inclusion. In addition, all new teachers go through dedicated training on social and emotional learning and equity. Teachers can opt-in to be part of SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) training, a longer-term in-depth program. However, the amount of training that is mandatory for experienced teachers is limited, due to logistical hurdles and structural barriers. Some teachers are not invested in making change.

Teacher training at Maine South, while robust, could be improved by having champions of DEI represented in more spaces and trainings to disperse the learning. Also, it is most effective and appropriate to have white teachers and teachers of color working together to bring about change.

The school representatives strongly believed that more equity training for teachers is necessary during school hours. The best way community members can advocate for this is to go to school leadership and the school board. In addition, they would like to see more resources (people, space, time) shared across the three Township schools.

Meeting concluded at 8:45pm.

Minutes respectfully submitted by Alissa Goldwasser and Nan Parson.

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