Vancouver Public Schools Board resolution condemns racism, promises equity process

The district’s actions are meant to address racial inequalities in discipline reported in a 2019 review by the state attorney general’s office

VANCOUVER — In a unanimous decision, the Vancouver Public Schools Board of Directors voted last week to approve a resolution condemning racism, and establishing policy directives on equity.

Vancouver Public Schools Jim Parsley Administration Building. File photo
Vancouver Public Schools Jim Parsley Administration Building. File photo

Resolution 869 calls for the creation of an equity work group, completion of an equity audit and future adoption of a district equity policy and procedures.

“This resolution is an important step in our commitment to address racial inequities in our school system,” said Board President Wendy Smith in a statement released by the district. “We know this is the right work. It’s critical that every student in VPS feels valued, respected and safe.”

The steps laid out in the resolution follows on work recommended by a consultant hired by the district earlier this year, which came after a review by the attorney general of Washington identifying racial disparities in disciplinary practices.

Following that review, the district hired Daniel Losen of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California, Los Angeles to issue a series of recommendations, as well as monitoring progress within the district for three school years.

Vancouver Public Schools Superintendent Steve Webb said at that time the district was committed to addressing “as a system, the complicated factors involved in fairly imposing student corrective action without unintended discriminatory outcomes.”

Losen’s review found that black students, on average, lost nearly four times as many days to suspension or expulsion as other ethnicities. Every 100 black students in the district had missed 103 days of school, verses 26.9 for every 100 white students.

The district announced earlier this year a number of staffing changes meant to increase its focus on equity and diversity. That included naming former Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School principal Janell Ephraim to become the district’s first chief equity officer.

The resolution adopted last week also calls for the formation of an equity work group, completion of an equity audit and future adoption of the district equity policy and procedure. 

“Additionally, to support the board’s goals of diversity, equity and inclusion, policies will be revised or developed in the areas of curriculum; instruction; recruitment, hiring and placement of staff; operations and school climate and culture,” the district announced in a press release.

VPS has already formed an equity advisory committee comprised of community representatives. Next steps will include school meetings with students, families and staff members. The district will also conduct a series of culture and climate surveys, as well as an audit to review practices and policies through an equity lens.