Essex Westford School District approves equity policy

Published: Jun. 15, 2021 at 11:37 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 16, 2021 at 12:55 AM EDT
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ESSEX, Vt. (WCAX) - After months of work, the Essex Westford School Board Tuesday voted to adopt a much-discussed equity policy on a vote of 8-1.

The equity policy has been in the works since September and has had hundreds of community members weigh in on what they would like to see. The policy faced some backlash with some people saying it was excluding white children. District officials, however, strongly rejected that classification, saying the policy was intended to be beneficial to all students and ensure opportunity for everyone. The broad majority of residents who spoke during meetings were also in support of the policy.

“I want my children and all students to attend the best public schools they can. I believe this policy will improve outcomes for all students in the district,” said Paul Yoon, an EWSD parent.

“As a mom of three kids in the school district, one which has a disability, I have a vested interest in helping him achieve his best potential in life and I believe all students deserve that,” said Megan Humphries, another EWSD parent.

The sole “no” vote came from school board member Liz Cady, who has previously spoken out against what she calls the policy’s basis in “critical race theory,” which teaches that systemic racism and inequality are embedded in all aspects of American life. Cady and others have argued the theory is divisive and teaches kids their country is inherently evil.

“I believe this is almost like our second merger, where everybody seems polarized on one side or the other. I do have reservations. The background in this policy is written explicitly where I think it’s very hard to unite people,” Cady said.

Other opponents of the theory argue it’s attacking white people.

“You’re teaching kids that they will never accomplish anything if you hold their hand. That minorities need extra help -- and they don’t. They are awesome kids, they don’t need extra help. All kids should be equal. If they need extra help, they should get it, and it’s awful and it’s all about skin color.,” said Caitlin Gregory, who attended the meeting.

The policy will also involve making sure the curriculum that EWSD is teaching makes sure to include many different views of history, making sure all students can see how history was experienced from the perspectives of all people and not just white people.

Board member Brendan Kinney spoke out against those who he said have opposed the new policy in the name of undermining public education.

“Shame on you for using the children of our community as pawns in your culture war. Historically, the work of school boards has been apolitical, yet in recent months we’ve seen partisan tactics used to promote a political agenda,” Kinney said.

Student board members like Iris Hsiang said the new policy had broad support from their peers.

“This policy is incredible. It’s written by the people it’s about and it’s crafted to make real changes and it looks different because it’s different and because it actually makes a difference. Voting ‘no’ on this policy would send a message that we don’t support the students experiencing these hardships,” Hsiang said.

The implementation of the policy will include mandatory training for teachers, among other provisions.

Related Stories:

Essex school officials say proposed equity policy informed by ‘critical race theory’

Essex-Westford School Board gets closer to voting on equity policy

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