Standing together against racism and injustice

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Superintendent Anderson

Dear Boulder Valley Community,

It is with a heavy heart that I write to you today. 

Lately, I have been communicating a lot about the pandemic, which has caused great uncertainty and loss in our country. This week we are mourning something new – the wrongful and horrific death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the subsequent fury of a nation against the blatant racism and violence that has been far too common for too long.

As I shared on Twitter over the weekend, I sat my kids down on Friday night to have a heart-to-heart talk with them about the history of racism in America. I would encourage all parents to do the same – especially if you are white. It is a difficult subject, but it is important that our children understand the long history of racism in our country and what they can do to be part of the solution.
 

It starts with all of us coming together in unison, denouncing racism and injustice, and becoming a consistent and effective ally by doing the following:

  • Working together to dismantle unjust systems of oppression

  • Being anti-racist

  • Engaging in difficult conversations

  • Showing a willingness to feel discomfort

  • Becoming more aware of our own biases

  • Listening across differences with an aim to understand rather than become defensive

  • Incorporating traditionally marginalized voices in decision-making

  • Noticing when you or others are engaging in microaggressions

For most of my career, I have worked in schools and school districts where students of color make up the majority of the student population. I have seen first hand how racial inequities impact students and families. While we have made some progress in the 60 years since the civil rights movement, George Floyd’s death reminds us that racial injustice remains an ever present challenge for our nation.

I know that no place in America, including Boulder Valley, is free from this harmful bias. Finally, I also know that I, my family, and other white members of our community cannot fully fathom the privilege that we have. No one should live in fear, unsure how they will be treated whether they’re pulled over by the police or called into the principal’s office. 

We must do better. 

We know that, while Boulder Valley School District is an outstanding place to learn, BVSD is not immune. Our school district has long struggled to address the achievement and opportunity gaps between our white students and our students of color.

Additionally, since arriving two years ago, I have made it a point to get to know and elevate the voices within our Spanish-speaking community. They have shared stories that have been disturbing. Time and time again they’ve shared how their students have been treated and disciplined differently than white students. The data supports their claims.

The intent and the ideas to do better have always been there. Now is our time, our calling, to address existing inequities and spark positive change.

From the top-down, we have people that are committed to making changes to better serve our students. Our Board of Education has long been an outspoken voice when it comes to equity, keeping it at the forefront of everything we do. Under their leadership, we have embarked on the All Together For All Students strategic plan, which aims to address the systemic issues that have kept our students of color from reaching their full potential. 

Here are a few examples of the work already underway:

  • A culturally responsive framework was developed this spring to guide the equity efforts of our district moving forward

  • Hundreds of educators are working this summer to develop culturally responsive curriculum 

  • At the last Board of Education meeting we took another step towards updating our antiquated discipline policies

  • We are making it a priority to increase the number of traditionally underrepresented students engaging in advanced coursework, including Advancement Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB)  classes

  • We are working to address the overidentification of students of color, specifically students who are Hispanic, in special education

  • Recruiting and hiring more teachers and leaders of color

You can hear more about the All Together For All Students strategic plan, when we provide the Board of Education with an update on June 16.

The Board and I truly believe that it is impossible for us to be an excellent school district, if we are not equitable for all students.

Don’t know what equity really means? Here is the definition we created to guide our efforts:
 

Equity in BVSD means…

  • removing institutional barriers to success

  • providing intentional support for each student, staff member and family or community member so that each has opportunity to achieve at the highest levels

  • embracing and respecting the dignity and diversity of each individual within our community

  • questioning assumptions and examining our own biases

  • challenging systems of power and oppression

  • creating counter-narratives to the common habits and assumptions that inhibit inclusion

  • confronting discrimination against our own or another person’s identity

  • committing to building our own and others’ capacity for culturally responsive teaching, learning, and leading


The Board of Education and I thank you for your support and ask you to stand with us.  We are hurting right now and my biggest worry is that in a few weeks, as history tells us, most will put this incident behind them without any change.  We cannot and will not let this happen. 

We, in the Boulder Valley School District, are committed to ensuring that all of our students and families feel welcome, safe and supported.


Sincerely,

 

Rob Anderson
Superintendent
Boulder Valley School District


 

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