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West Lafayette school board approves diversity, equity and inclusion committee, applications now open to join

West Lafayette school board approves diversity, equity and inclusion committee, applications now open to join

WEST LAFAYETTE – It’s full steam ahead for West Lafayette Community School Corp.’s new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee, after it was officially approved by the school board during the Monday meeting.

Applications to join the committee, which has yet to be named, are open and available through a Google Form on the school district’s website. It will be co-chaired by Margaret Psarros, principal of West Lafayette Intermediate School and Laura Falk, a former teacher and now permanent substitute teacher in the school district.

School board President Alan Karpick and board members Rachel Witt and Karen Springer had been working on creating the committee since later summer.

“We’re really excited about the opportunity and the ultimate positive effect we believe it will have on the student experience as our schools,” Karpick said.

While Psarros and Falk are co-chairs, the committee will be facilitated by Carolyn Johnson, the associate vice provost for diversity and inclusion at Purdue. As the task force facilitator, Johnson’s role will be to help the committee summarize the information they gather and provide an outside view from the school corporation, Psarros said.

“As a facilitator, I want her to challenge us a bit and help us look outside our comfort zone and look at what else is going on here,” Psarros said.

The committee will comprise of around 30 members and will be made of various stakeholder groups representing the community, including students, teachers and staff, school administrators, parents and community members, Psarros said. The co-chairs hope to have their first meeting with the newly-formed committee later in January.

Applications to join are live on the school district’s website and the co-chairs hope to receive applications over the next two weeks. Questions on the Google Forum include the applicant’s connection to WLCSC, what diversity area they most relate and outcomes they would most like to strive toward as a committee member.

In the first meeting, the committee will hear from WLCSC staff about how each school has started to address diversity, equity and inclusion under four categories: academic support, social and emotional support, staff and professional development and parent/family outreach.

In addition, the committee will conduct an “in-depth review” of school corporation data, pulling from the data available through the Indiana Department of Education, Psarros said, reviewing the past 10 years of IDOE data to get an “accurate portrait of who we are regarding all areas of demographics gathered.”

While the committee is supported by WLCSC, other groups have expressed a need for increased diversity and “anti-racist” education within the school district. Over the summer, the alumni group West Lafayette Coalition for Anti-Racist Education wrote an open letter signed by several hundred current students and alumni calling for the school district to support the Black Lives Matter movement and “enact comprehensive reforms while working to become an actively anti-racist organization.”

WL CARE plans to hold an anti-racism and diversity virtual town hall Jan. 26.

Ila Chaubey, an administrator with WL CARE, posted to the “Friends of WL Schools Open Form” Facebook group Jan. 2, citing reporting from ProPublica, an investigative journalism nonprofit. According to data gathered by ProPublica, white students at WLCSC are 3.3 times more likely to be enrolled in at least one Advanced Placement class as students or two or more races. Additionally, Black students at WLCSC are 8.5 times more likely to be suspended as white students.

In her post, Chaubey called for an investigation into the race of students recommended on the honors and Advanced Placement track.

Members of WL CARE meet monthly with school board members.

During the Monday school board meeting, Karpick cited posts on social media “attacking” the committee co-chairs, calling the information presented “incomplete, inaccurate and misleading.”

“…It creates an unproductive distraction to what we believe is vitally important to addressing issues of race taken on by leadership committee of schools,” he said. “As a school board is duly charged to do, we will focus energy on diligently serving our students with complete and accurate information in a professional manner. It will not be done on social media.”

Emily DeLetter is a news reporter for the Journal & Courier. Contact her at (765) 201-8515 or via email at Follow her on Twitter at @EmilyDeLetter.

This content was originally published here.

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