Board Statement on Equity and Inclusion
There have been ongoing discussions surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion within our school district. To have members of our community, our own students, state that they feel harassed or marginalized due to their race, gender, sexual orientation, or beliefs is hard to hear. At its core, Linn-Mar believes that every student should feel welcome and respected by all who surround them. The fact that this is not the case is simply unacceptable.
Creating a safe learning environment that feels welcoming and accepting to all our students is a top priority for this board. Without this environment, students cannot achieve at their highest levels.
There is no easy fix for division and the feeling of not being accepted. As a district, we must start with this truth in order to truly begin to move forward. This is the goal the board outlines today.
We recognize that the past 20 months have not been easy for anyone. We also recognize that events surrounding social justice, race relations, and income disparity have long plagued our society. It is important for all of us to understand that our students watch and listen. They engage and are not as isolated from current events as students have been in the past. While it seems these events of turmoil happen far from our boundaries, the impact occurs within the halls and walls of our buildings.
In recent weeks our students, representing different viewpoints, stood up and walked out. They expressed their constitutional right to free speech and highlighted areas of discord and misunderstanding. The board is here to state to these students, to all of our students, that we are listening. We are also listening to concerned parents and community members, and we are listening to our teachers and staff members as well. We hear you and we are committed to working with you to bridge this divide and bring our community together.
This fall Linn-Mar began an Equity committee comprised of community members, staff, parents and students, and a representative of this board. This committee has met regularly and will be outlining steps the district can take to address areas of concern in our district. These discussions are helpful for us to understand the lived experiences of underrepresented students and to chart a path forward.
In addition to this new committee, the high school administration, in collaboration with district leadership, is working on a series of steps to work with students, both our student leaders and our entire student body, to address the division being felt in our hallways. Ongoing student engagement to address inclusiveness and the sense of belonging in our buildings, as well as shifts in policy and procedures, will follow. We also understand the concerns being shared by parents and while we cannot always share every detail of evolving situations, we value parent communication and take each concern into account as we review and update district policy and procedure.
The Linn-Mar school board has set policy in place, in accordance with state and federal law, that protects and affirms students’ rights to free speech and expression. We will continue to uphold those rights but also work with students to understand the impact on other students and the community, and to work toward a wider understanding and acceptance of our differences. We will also work with our students to help them see there are more similarities than difference between them.
Rest assured, these efforts are something the school board, administrators, teachers, and support staff at all district levels are taking seriously. As members of our district, whether you are a student, parent or guardian, staff member, or member of the community, you also play an important role in this process. Your continued assistance in supporting and helping create a safe learning environment for ALL students will be critical to our success.
Even with these initial steps, we know this will take time, and continued conversation. Moving forward, we are committed as a district to a path of continuous improvement efforts in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Ultimately, the work of creating a respectful, unified and inclusive environment is never “done.” This work must be active and intentional and evolve as we learn and grow. It takes all of us coming together for authentic conversations with a shared goal of creating spaces where ALL students can be their best selves.
Together, we will continue to build a school culture of which we can all be proud. Because together we are stronger. Together, we are Linn-Mar.