With one dissenting vote, Farmington Public Schools trustees last week approved a diversity resolution that includes specific measures to combat racism.
Trustees took the action on August 11; they continue to meet electronically due to COVID-19 pandemic concerns.
The proclamation, linked on the board’s agenda website, declares racism a public health crisis, identifies the district as an anti-racist institution, and calls for:
- researching and integration of racially and culturally relevant elements into the curriculum,
- required staff trainings on diversity, equity, and inclusion, focused on race and implicit bias, and board training on race and implicit bias,
- monitoring and reporting of racial incidents,
- working with Farmington Public Safety and Farmington Hills Police Department to review standards and expectations and promote a culturally affirming climate,
- discontinuing the celebration of Columbus Day and recognizing and honoring Indigenous Peoples’ Day,
- formation of race and other identity-based employee Affinity Groups to give staff members a safe space to air their concerns,
- continuation of an institutional culture audit and regular staff satisfaction surveys, particularly regarding racial issues, and
- developing an equity in education policy and procedures
While he agreed the district has racial problems, Board Vice President Terry Johnson said he could not support the measure.
“To me, the simple version should be we should treat everybody the same,” he said. “Outside of that, once we start doing things differently, it’s going to be one side or the other… Whether it’s racism or reverse racism, it’s still going to be the same problem we have, whether it’s a year from now or five years from now.”‘
Trustee Terri Weems said she supported the resolution “because I expect that there will be some action coming out of it.”
“I wish we treated everybody the same, the reality is we do not,” she said. “We have evidence of that all over the place. I want people to feel welcomed, I want people to feel heard. I want us to work on an equity policy with fidelity, I want to understand staff concerns. I don’t see anything that says we will treat anybody differently.”
Trustee Angie Smith urged members of the education community to think about their comments and conversations, and watch their behavior with systemic and institutional racism.
“I will pass this…but I want to see some change,” she said.
With the pending hiring of an Assistant Superintendent for Diversity and Inclusion, an equity audit, and processes in place, trustee Richard Mukamal said, “this is perfectly appropriate and perfectly correct for this district.”
“People are not treated equally, and they should be,” he added. “People deserve to be treated equally in this district.”
Correction: The headline on the original version of this post incorrectly described the diversity resolution.