Equity and inclusion are increasingly pervasive issues in education today. As an educator, parent, and community member, I believe the absence of equity and inclusion perpetuates failure, while the presence of equity and inclusion, empowers communities with a fighting chance to achieve and sustain prosperity. It’s baffling when individuals affiliated with a school resist the efforts of one or both, equity and/or inclusion. The daily reality of challenges within our society for some has morphed from a dangerous visible menace to a more treacherous cloaked beast. We need each other with open hearts now more than ever.
It is devastating to hear children express themselves in defeat, saying, “This country wasn’t built for me or those who look like me. Why am I viewed as a threat? When will we be taught a curriculum that is not rooted in white supremacy?” The very crimes that this country was built on have manifested into the daily lives of too many people. Planning through the lens of equity and inclusion is emphatically necessary to support transparent empathetic environments where all stakeholders have a voice and feel valued. Equitable and inclusive schools support stakeholders’ collective shared vision, mission, core values, beliefs, goals, objectives, outcomes, leadership, and accountability, aligned to increased student achievement at its core. We have so much in common.
Crisis Mode in Today’s Schools – Equity
Equity demands the overdue elimination of the achievement gap, disproportionality with out-of-school suspensions, and the over-identification of students of color into special education. Stakeholders must shift their expectations of performance predictability based on background, race, disabilities, economic status, among other categories. Where is the unrelenting outrage for consecutive years of our children suffering? Our highly impacted schools are operating on life support in triage crisis mode. Inclusion in schools fosters a welcoming school environment, positive participatory school culture, and unwavering invested school community. Why are some stakeholders and stakeholder groups excluded as partners within the continuous school improvement cycle? Inclusive environments are conducive to all stakeholders’ communicating, collaborating, and contributing on behalf of what’s best for students within the school and school community.
Some students of failing schools are products of resource-deprived neighborhoods and chilling dismantled communities due to the negative impact of major factors including decades of the merciless drug epidemic and oppressive gentrification. The apparent generational warfare and disregarded trauma are unconscionably overwhelming in our communities. Moreover, some students of failing schools are obvious products of drowning systems and shattered educators. Meeting the needs of students has intensified. What “impossible” hurdles must students crawl under, break through, and leap over? Technological factors further introduce seamless access to unfiltered information, especially with social media access, increasing forms of unmonitored communication, and unfiltered entertainment. Our students are receiving an overflow of uncontrolled stimuli, requiring all hands on deck, to balance, nurture and prepare our children for the present and future. Stakeholders must come together and commit to intensive training and ongoing professional development to even begin to make a sustainable difference.
Equity and inclusion serve complimentary when working in tandem. It is essential to develop and maintain an equity and inclusive schools’ stance, demonstrating readiness in combination with research and evidence-based positively impactful factors. Without embracing equity and inclusion, we lack basic awareness to restoring the outcry for justice in our schools. Our students do not need mediocre educators who attempt to rescue them. Our children are undoubtedly resilient. Instead, our children deserve strong educators and leaders with the stamina to guide students and school communities to forever triumph.
Perceived Labels Don’t Have to Limit
Our individual and group belief systems have created consecutive years of shaping and molding, from who we are to the sometimes misalignment of who we perceive ourselves to be along with an added layer of who others impose us to be. As conscious human beings, school community stakeholders must cultivate the collective steadfast will to commit to doing “whatever it takes” to close an array of gaps, achievement, access, opportunity, and freedom.
Maintaining a sense of urgency is cliché and inadequate today. We must amplify and exhaust the urgency to change this deteriorating trajectory on behalf of our students and ourselves. This is merely a glimpse of the surface into the abyss. Equity and inclusion are far from the “be all” answers, but rather serve as beginnings of producing sensible actions, forming solutions, and transforming the system of education for stakeholders, primarily students, to produce mass change.