Everett Education Coalition Statement of Anti-Racism Solidarity with Students
To the Editor,
We, the members of the Everett Education Coalition, are deeply disturbed and saddened by the continuing racism and extrajudicial violence against Black people in the United States. Breonna Taylor, Ahmad Arbery, George Floyd, and Elijah McClain – among countless others – are victims of an unchecked system of white supremacy in our country. This systemic injustice is widespread and deeply felt. Many of us joined our neighbors in protests and vigils against police brutality and wondered how we could dismantle the systems that make this national issue so intractable.
Yet we would be amiss to only focus on the systemic national issues and not organize locally around the real hurt and pain that these injustices create – particularly at school – expressed by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, or Person of Color) youth in Everett. Many of us attended A Moment to Breathe: A Black Youth Vigil, organized by EHS alumni Lorna Closeil and Fanelson Monexant, along with recent graduates and current students. It was a tribute to the organizing power and resilience of Black students in our community. A small group of EEC members met with some EHS alumni and learned of their plans to meet with Everett High School teachers, administration, School Committee members, and Superintendent Priya Tahiliani to discuss specific and concrete antiracist solutions within EHS, among other problems. We asked how to support and amplify this work; they answered that it was essential to see that the community stands with them.
We write this statement in solidarity with all students facing racial injustice in Everett- they should know that they do not stand alone. Many of us in EEC are educators and parents ourselves; we recognize that the educators of the Everett Public Schools are effective, committed, and care deeply for every single one of their students. Yet we also know that systemic racism is insidious and can blend seamlessly into the fabric of a school building, and that intent is not the same as impact. If youth in our community are hurting from racial injustice, it does not matter if we “didn’t mean it,” “mean well,”, or “didn’t know better.” The responsibility lies with us to fix it.
We write this to amplify and support the needs of the students, including:
•Stakeholders should specifically name racism and its structural manifestations, including police brutality and the school-to-prison pipeline, and avoid the “toxic positivity” of proclaiming that structural racism is not a problem in Everett.
•Concrete actions to address structural racism in schools, particularly the lack of racial and ethnic diversity among faculty. Such measures could include sustained work to attract and retain more BIPOC educators.
•Concrete actions to provide adequate professional development to Everett staff dedicated to antiracism work – such as understanding and identifying implicit bias and racial micro aggressions – and other culturally and socially relevant training.
•Accountability around experiences of gender-based bias and pervasive sexual assault and harassment in schools, including a system for students to report gender-based bias and sexual harassment to a trained adult and receive adequate support.
•Increased transparency and communication in regards to responding to reports of racism and discrimination expressed by faculty and students. There needs to be accountability in addressing public and private affairs with a clear code of conduct being set in the Student and Teacher Handbooks., The staff contract should delineate specific actions that will be taken for any racist statements or actions, especially in the case that faculty or students have expressed harm surrounding said statements or actions.
We support a vision of the Everett Public Schools where:
•Students can freely express their ideas and concerns in a safe and supportive environment.
•Students feel their cultures and identities are understood, respected, and represented by their educators, administrators and support staff.
•The current demographics of the Everett community drive curricular and instructional decisions, and these decisions are regularly revisited, discussed, and improved upon.
Thankfully, there are members of Everett beginning to pick up this critical work to dismantle systemic racism. We commend the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Subcommittee introduced by School Committee member Marcony Almeida-Barros and joined by School Committee members Dana Murray and Samantha Lambert. We ask that the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Sub-Committee meet regularly with youth in the Everett Public Schools to make sure that they implement and enforce relevant measures to address ongoing issues. We appreciate the work of Superintendent Priya Tahiliani and her action plan to address racism within EPS. We appreciate that Mayor Carlo DeMaria declared systemic racism a public health emergency in Everett and has convened an advisory board to audit the city’s practices around policing. We additionally suggest that the advisory board include and actively solicit feedback from students who have experienced racism in Everett. We are happy to see these first steps – but they will be just that without action.
We cannot be complacent, and this work is far from being done.
The Everett Education Coalition