NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - While some local school districts have remained silent in the wake of nationwide outrage against systemic racism and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, the North Salem school board passed a resolution during its Zoom meeting Wednesday, June 17, to ensure equality and action, if necessary, in the district.
Board President Deborah D’Agostino said the board has been struggling with what its response should be to the racial inequity discussion that has been taking place across the country. In its last meeting, trustee Brandy Keenan was tasked with researching and making recommendations as to what actions should be taken.
Keenan, who formed a working committee to tackle the issues, said the group had comprised a statement and promise of action.
“On Monday, May 25, our country and our children bore witness to the death of a Black man in the custody of law enforcement. George Floyd along with Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery are the recent names in a long list of familiar failures that highlight the inequitable treatment that Black Americans have experienced in our country,” Keenan read. “In recent days, citizens of this country have taken to the streets, to social media and to their own kitchen tables in an effort to recognize and process the inheritance of institutional racism and bias that still exists today.”
Continuing, she read, “It is time we face these issues head-on for ourselves, for our students and for those in our community who are feeling hurt, angry and afraid. As role models, we are aware that our children are watching and listening. The North Salem Board of Education would like to express to our diverse students and their families this: ‘We may not be able to fully understand the hardships you face every day but we can say that we see you, we hear you and we stand with you.’ ”
According to the resolution, the district’s task is to empower all students to become successful, contributing, engaged and aware citizens who have the tools to recognize racial discrimination and the confidence to stand up against such inequalities.
In moving forward, the school board has promised to take the following actions: provide leadership through participation and education in community-based efforts that promote equity and tolerance; allocate resources that allow its facilities and staff to fully participate in educational community efforts such as, but not limited to, the BOCES Regional Equity and Diversity Steering Committee; and create an ad hoc committee consisting of board members, administrators, teachers, students, parents and community members to be tasked with performing an institutional inventory of bias in curriculum, instruction and behavior.
That committee will be responsible for making recommendations for improvements.
The school board stressed that its ultimate goal is to ensure all students and families feel safe and welcome in North Salem schools.
Trustee Andrew Pelosi made a motion to accept the resolution, which was unanimously approved by the board.
“I applaud the board for taking a stance on the issues of equity and racial injustice,” said Superintendent Ken Freeston. “The administrative team is committed to working with you hand in hand and the members of the community. I think this is great work.”