Calvert’s board of eduction is considering implementing an anti-racism policy, something school officials say only three other districts in the nation have.
The policy’s purposes, according to the draft, includes acknowledging personal and institutional racism exists, affirming that combatting racism is a legal and a moral imperative, and calling to eliminate all forms of racism in the school system.
The policy was presented to the board Sept. 10 during the first meeting since the death of William Phalen, the board’s president.
Sandy Walker, supervisor of equity and school improvement, said he found only three school systems in the country have an anti-racism policy and three others are talking about creating one.
“The Calvert County Board of Education affirms an obligation to require a safe, anti-racist and inclusive educational environment where each student and staff member is treated with respect and dignity, regardless of the color of their skin,” the draft states, adding the board will not tolerate systematic racism.
The draft policy also includes definitions of anti-racism, ethnicity, individual racism, institutional racism, racism, structural racism, opportunity gap, white privilege and white supremacy.
Walker said “anti” means actively engaging.
“Meaning that being not racist or not engaged in racism is not enough,” he said. He added being anti-racist means “you’re actively working against racists.”
Walker said the language in the policy gives a comprehensive understanding of systematic racism and goes beyond “an angry person running down the street with a torch and spouting hatred.”
The policy defines “anti-racism” as “the practice of identifying, challenging, and changing the values, structures and behaviors that perpetuate systemic racism.”
Inez Claggett, vice chair of the board, asked if that practice would be hard to identify.
“Because not everyone shares the same thoughts about anti-racism or understanding of anti-racism,” she said.
She asked Walker to consider different wording for a few of the definitions.
“When we talk about racism, everyone has such a different concept of what it is and we felt that this policy really gives the opportunity for us to be very clear about racism,” Walker said.
Board member Pam Cousins said the policy was first proposed in April, “Long before the social injustices happening now in the nation.”
It was also before five former students spray-painted the n-word and other obscenities on Calvert High School’s football field in early August.
Cousins suggested adding language that addresses anti-semitism as well because she has heard about swastikas and related slurs being used within the school system over the years. She added that she wants the policy to acknowledge multiple groups of people.
Walker said that was discussed when drafting the policy and he noticed other policies, like discrimination and equity, already address different minority groups. But he said they can include it in the anti-racism policy as well.
The board agreed to bring the policy back at a future meeting for more discussion.