Fostering an Inclusive Learning Environment
As an outcome of its location — a predominately white, conservative town — Sycamore Community School District 427 has never been considered progressive. However, as an educational institution, the District's primary responsibility is to its students. This was recently reflected in a statement the District released in regard to their teacher's display of the Black Lives Matter logo and announcing their newly formed "Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Acceptance (IDEA) Committee." Feedback from stakeholders was generally positive — if shocked by the District taking a stand.
The statement was drafted by Events and Communications Specialist Hunter Scott Thomas; proofed by Communications Manager David Olson; and reviewed by Superintendent Steve Wilder, with minor requests for revision. The IDEA Committee approved the statement to be released.
The accompanying video was written by the IDEA Committee; shot and directed by the High School's television production students; and animated and edited by Events and Communications Specialist Hunter Scott Thomas.
In June of this year, we communicated with you our District’s commitment to continuous improvement by fostering experiences that represent multiple perspectives and acknowledging the importance of diversity as a part of the learning process.
You may have heard of one of our teacher’s avatars wearing a “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt in their virtual classroom earlier this semester. This occasion raised concerns within our community, both supporting and opposing this statement. Although internal investigations remain confidential, we believe this occasion presents an opportunity to reflect and act on our values.
As a learning community, our responsibility is to provide a safe and inclusive environment for students and staff members to appreciate and celebrate our differences. However, this cannot happen when a person’s race — an unchangeable part of their identity — is a potential point of discrimination. Indeed, racism is still an issue in our community, country, and the world today.
With that in mind, we believe that Black lives do matter. Recognizing this truth is a vital part of developing a safe learning environment that is inclusive of all our members.
As part of our commitment to developing and implementing a culture of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Acceptance, we recently formed the IDEA Committee.
The IDEA Committee comprises teachers, administrators, and a representative from the Regional Office of Education. Through continuing conversations, we will work toward being a more inclusive organization. We believe that progress needs to be made with a long-term lens to ensure that what we do becomes part of our district’s identity, not just a one-time program or initiative.
We will continue to share further updates on the IDEA Committee’s work in the coming months, and we look forward to including the voices of our students, staff, and community in this work.
-Sycamore Community School District 427