REDMOND, OR -- Only a handful of school districts in Oregon have an equity policy in place to promote belonging and inclusion of students and staff. Bend-La Pine Schools approved one last June. The High Desert Education Service District (ESD) Board unanimously approved its policy this week.
High Desert ESD Superintendent Paul Andrews says they’ve always followed anti-discrimination laws, "But when we did a look at our policies, that’s all we had. We didn’t speak to truly validating and celebrating differences between people. We didn’t look at, ‘are there gaps in the outcomes based on those?’ While we may not be actively discriminating against, or breaking the law in that sense, are we truly serving the needs of all kids?" He tells KBND News the district started creating the equity policy two years ago, "It solidifies that we do look at equity as something different than equality. Equality means we treat everyone exactly the same way, frankly, whether they need it or not. Equity is more about treating each student [and] each employee based on who they are and what they bring to the table as a whole person, and validating that and celebrating that." Click HERE to view the full policy.
The Education Service District works with all school districts in the region to provide special programs, in some cases, working with Central Oregon’s most vulnerable and fragile students.
Andrews says the goal is to make sure students have what they need to succeed, regardless of potential barriers like socioeconomic status, language, gender identity, disability, or race, "There is a great deal of research that says, for example - children of color are much more likely to succeed if they have a teacher who looks like them. How are we doing at making sure the children we serve will experience a teacher who looks like them, has experiences like them? We haven't actively asked those questions at a policy level, before." High Desert ESD is now looking at how to work the concepts identified in the policy in to hiring, training and advocacy efforts.