Rain and chilly weather drove a planned demonstration outside Thursday’s Clark County School Board meeting indoors, with residents calling on trustees to put an anti-racism policy on the agenda soon.
“We didn’t anticipate the rain, but it’s not going to stop us,” said Jai Marshall, co-founder of No Racism in Schools #1865, a campaign promoting equality in education.
The comments came after the board took up a discussion-only item on an anti-racism policy at its March 3 work session, ultimately assigning the task of drafting a resolution on the matter to President Linda Cavazos and Vice President Irene Cepeda after some concerns were raised about taking staff time away from reopening schools.
Trustee Katie Williams also raised that state law and the district’s existing bullying policy cover conduct based on race, color, national origin and ethnicity.
“If it’s not being enforced, that’s not necessarily a board issue, but an individual school issue, or an individual principal issue or individual student issue,” she said.
Several other trustees expressed support for incorporating anti-racism into the board’s vision or in a subsequent statement.
“For me, as a woman of color, it’s something I see and I feel everyday, whether it’s my skin color or whether it’s my hair,” Cepeda said. “To say that it’s not part of the fabric of our nation … I don’t believe it’s entirely fair.”
No Racism in Schools co-founder Akiko Cooks told the Review-Journal the group was urging the board to put the policy language on the agenda as soon as possible, as racist incidents hadn’t stopped with the closure of school district buildings.
“The saddest thing is that we have to convince people to have an anti-racism policy,” Cooks said. “That we’d even need to tell people who make decisions for our children that this is necessary.”
She said an anti-racism policy was needed on top of the existing bullying policy to specifically address incidents such as the 2019 threats at Arbor View High School, or a recent photo at Foothill High School in which a student referenced the death of George Floyd for a Sadie Hawkins dance invitation.
“Racism is a type of bullying, but it’s not just bullying,” Cooks said.
In addition to crisis response, the policy could deal with education and prevention, Cooks said, adding that the district should center community input in crafting it.
Several public commenters also spoke in favor of the policy.
The board also approved a series of agreements with its bargaining units representing teachers, police officers and support staff, including a $10,000 payment to nurses who will assist with COVID-19 procedures, like tracing, testing, vaccinations and assisting in school sick rooms, where students displaying symptoms of COVID-19 are held.
Nurses told the board the payments were a start, but didn’t go quite far enough to support their work during the pandemic. They warned that staffing shortages were imminent because of the district’s inability to retain nurses.
An agreement with the Clark County Education Association for teachers in fourth through 12th grades mimics the language of the agreement for teachers in lower grades, including mandating that educators participate in COVID-19 screening, testing and contact tracing.
But it also includes special considerations for scheduling, including that in secondary schools, “licensed professionals shall not be required to relieve more than three separate face-to-face classes as a substitute in a week.”