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After some debate, Kaneland school board approves resolution to support equity, equality

Resolution passed at Aug. 31 board meeting

Students arrive for the first day of in-school learning at Kaneland John Stewart Elementary School in Elburn on Aug. 20.
Students arrive for the first day of in-school learning at Kaneland John Stewart Elementary School in Elburn on Aug. 20.

MAPLE PARK – The Kaneland School District 302 Board of Education formally approved a resolution committing district support on 'Black Lives and Racial Equality' in a 4-0-1 vote at its meeting on Aug. 31.

The resolution, which was suggested at the June 29 board meeting, comes in the wake of civil unrest following a police officer-involved shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisc., last week.

Board President Shana Sparber, Gale Pavlak, Aaron Lawler and Teresa Witt voted in the affirmative. There were zero 'no' votes and Pedro Rivas abstained.

"By approving the resolution, Kaneland CUSD 302 will be resolved to work diligently to meet the expectations laid out in the resolution," a memo from Superintendent Dr. Todd Leden to the board reads. "Upon approval, Kaneland administration and staff will discuss both short and long term goals to meet the expectations of this resolution."

The resolution lists at least four charges that the board will recognize or honor:

The first: "Supports our committed district leaders, teachers, staff, and students who are dedicated to work for lasting change that honors human dignity of all Kaneland community members as well as all residents of the State of Illinois."

The second: "Reaffirms that all district policies and practices promote equity and equality for all Kaneland students both in and out of the classroom."

The third: "Recognizing our position of authority, will check and question our biases, beliefs, and actions to ensure racial equality becomes permanent in Kaneland Community Unit School District #302."

The fourth: "Encourages hiring and staffing practices to work towards creating and maintaining a district staff that is representative of the Kaneland student body."

The full resolution can be viewed here.

Rivas appeared to have reservations on the resolution prior to the vote.

"I think we're getting too close to politically putting stuff into school stuff, and I totally do not agree with this," Rivas said. "If I look at diversity itself, supporting diversity out of it, which we could talk about that; not that I don't believe in it...because the next thing I'm going to ask you is: 'Do Brown Lives matter?' and we can keep on going. So, I think we should focus on the diversity aspect of it and support what we're supposed to be doing and move forward with that."

"Because, one of the things that if I recall [correctly at] the meeting [In June], was to get things out of it that would bring about classes to attend, educate those that are at the front lines, if you will, to make the experience better at the education level," Rivas continued. "I'm more about just leaving it at the diversity level than to start putting labels on things."

"Although I respect what you're saying, Pedro, I totally do, I think if you read through this, it doesn't really single out any one group. It's pretty good at saying 'students of color' not saying just 'black students.' It is doing a pretty good job, I think, of celebrating those differences," Lawler rebutted.

"I think at this time, we have the responsibility to say something for our students of color that might be feeling the pressures of the world in a new way because we have the voice to do so," Lawler continued. "But, like I said, I'm not saying I don't disagree with what you're saying, I think we should celebrate diversity. I'm saying that I think this does address that, though."

Rivas then pointed to the first half of the resolution title, specifically mentioning "Black Lives:"

That's what I saw; I saw diversity. I read it," he said.

"And, I understand what you're saying, I do," Lawler said. "But, I think what's happening here is that this is when it says our commitment to Black Lives and Racial Equality, it's because society is triggered at this moment, right? Had it been a Brown Lives Matter movement or a Whatever Lives Matter movement we would be writing a policy for that [then]."

"Where does it stop?" Rivas asked.

"I don't know if it should," Lawler said. "...I would think this a new template for moving forward. Here's an opportunity, seize an opportunity [and] as new things arise, we can continue to add our voice out there; to continue to protect and speak for our students who are young people and don't necessarily have that voice. So, the next one might be Brown Lives or LGBTQ or whatever it is and just continue to add [to this resolution]."

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