Zurya Anjum, Sartell
I was very disappointed in the decision by the school board to not go ahead with the equity audit. As a person of color with two children in the school district who have faced discrimination for years, here is my response to the reasons stated at the meeting to not approve the audit:
1. Do we need an equity audit:
Not necessarily but even though this issue has been brought up too many times to the attention of school administration by students, parents and teachers for years, nothing has been done about it. Due to our reluctance to acknowledge this difficult issue we have ignored it for years. Can we still continue to ignore it now… no. And if we choose to Ignore it what does it say about us? We need an impartial review of our school system to identify what and how to improve things.
2. Not the right time:
If not now, when is the right time? The kids, teachers and parents spoke passionately and from their hearts at the listening session about years of discrimination. If the school board was not aware of them that is their failing. Now that they are aware, every day they do nothing about it and our children bear the scars, the responsibility of that is on them. There will never be a perfect time to do this. That is like saying to someone: you should learn to be a perfect parent before having kids. We learn as we grow with our kids, recognize our mistakes and correct them. No one is a perfect parent and there is never a perfect time to do anything.
2. It is too expensive:
This is an insult to the people who have asked for this for years, not just at the listening session now. We can commit to invest an insane amount ($50,000 according to rumors) for rental cost that is currently paid by the school district to the city of Sartell for renting space for ice hockey for a year but can not spend $80,000 once to make a plan for 3-5 years to deal with these important issues that impact our children’s mental health. Shame on us for putting a price on that.
3. We haven’t explored other options than Equity alliance:
Mr. Witherspoon is one of two options available to us in our state. The other option was also explored and many people stated had a lot of problems.
Mr. Witherspoon is familiar with our school area having served in the St Cloud school district for many years as an equity coordinator. To be fair there may be better out-of-state options but they would definitely be more costly. Why should we not proceed with this one?
4. Covid 19 pandemic makes it difficult to do the audit:
That is true but this is not a situation that will change in months. It will take years. The audit company has expressed their flexibility about this. Do we have an option to delay this important work for years?
Finally, I urge all of you to think about how it would make you feel if your child/teenager came home and said he/she was called a terrorist/nigger/other names at school every day.
As a parent it breaks my heart and if there was anything I could do to save my child from this I would do it instantly. Unfortunately I can’t. They have to live in this world and make their life on their own. I cannot protect them from this despite my education or financial status. But you can at this time. Do not waste the opportunity to do the right thing.
We should all be ashamed of ourselves for ignoring this issue and strive to do everything in our power to try to change this systemic racism that is destroying our children’s mental health. Please do something now. If I or other parents, students, teachers can help you in any way please do not hesitate to ask us. I am sure we would all be more than happy to help you in any way we can.