Equity Committee Updates
In February, the VA Attorney General’s office reached an agreement with LCPS that commits the school system to reforming policies, investing in minority community outreach, and submitting to third-party monitoring in an effort to improve equitable access to education for minority students. Both the LCPS Equity Committee (of which the Hunt District PTA holds a seat) and the Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee (MSAAC) will provide feedback to the school board on policy revisions and improvements related to this agreement.
PTAs in the Loudoun community play a vital role in promoting and ensuring equity within the school community as well. The Hunt District has formed an Equity Committee committed to helping local PTAs on the journey to equity. Equity work is hard work - it requires the ability to look for and identify both equity wins and failures. You may feel unsure of how to start the equity conversation within your PTA. The Hunt District Equity Committee is here to provide your PTA with resources, training, and advice on starting or continuing equity work within your PTA and school community. Watch your email inbox and Facebook for Equity Committee information and outreach. You can reach out to the committee with questions by emailing the Equity Chair at email@example.com.
LCPS Equity Committee Updates
The LCPS Equity Committee met in February and March. Our February meeting welcomed new representatives to the committee including a representative from the LGBTQ+ community and representatives nominated by each school board member. During this meeting members reviewed the previous work of the Equity committee and voted on member priorities for the 2021 year. During our March meeting representatives offered feedback on proposed changes to the LCPS Dress Code policy. Many of these changes focus on ensuring that the dress code is gender-neutral and respectful of cultural differences and religious preferences. Committee members offered possible changes to the revisions and resources for school administrators. During this meeting members were also introduced to revisions of the Student Discipline Policy and asked to consider and provide comment on proposed revisions in the coming month. Comments and concerns about this policy will be discussed at our April meeting.
Equity Committee Chair
Dear School Board members,
I'm writing you as the Equity Chair for the Hunt District PTA and as an LCPS parent to urge you to discuss and make appropriate changes to policies related to the misgendering of transgender students in LCPS classrooms.
In 2019 LCPS included gender identity and sexual orientation in the approved Policy 1040 revision. Requiring school administration to verify pronoun changes for transgender and gender-fluid students with parents is a violation of the protections of the policy, as this requirement is only in place for gender-diverse students, not the student body as a whole.
Affirming pronoun requests is one of the important ways we can support gender diverse students, faculty, and staff within our schools. An individual is aware of and capable of deciding on the pronouns they wish to identify as by a young age (see Olson, K.R., & Gülgöz, S. (2018). Early Findings from the TransYouth Project: Gender Development in Transgender Children. Child Development Perspectives, 12(2), 93-97.) Denial or refusal to support and affirm these choices is an equity issue and does not foster a safe and supportive learning environment. It is also detrimental to the mental health of students and staff impacted by intentional misgendering.
The Hunt District PTA and the National PTA are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion. This commitment includes representation and respect for sexual orientation and gender identification. We hope that the LCPS School Board will continue to support gender diverse students by allowing for self-identification without requiring parental permission. A full list of Trans Student Policy Recommendations, created by multiple non-profits and government agencies, includes many recommendations that the board should support as well. A copy of this document was submitted to the VDOE in June of this year and is attached for your review and consideration.
Thank you for your time. We look forward to working closely with members of the Equity Committee and the School Board as you make decisions to support our LGBTQ+ students, faculty, and staff by adopting and enforcing affirming policies for all Loudoun County Public Schools.
Hunt District PTA
In 2019, LCPS included gender identity and sexual orientation into their Equal Opportunity (1040) policy. This requires that all schools provide an equitable and safe working and learning environment for LGBTQ+ faculty, staff, and students. Affirming LGBTQ+ students is an important part of this policy, as well as stopping and preventing anti-LGBTQ+ speech and bullying. Affirming LGBTQ+ students and adults is a practice in suicide prevention. These students are at a higher risk for suicidal ideation than their heterosexual and cisgender peers. How do we do this important job?
One way is for PTAs to be aware of and encourage the implementation of LGBTQ+ affirming policies (i.e. using a student's chosen pronouns in class) and training for faculty and staff that support LGBTQ+ students. For example, right now LCPS requires parent permission for a student to use pronouns other than those listed on registration documentations. Requiring parental consent for only gender-diverse students is contrary to the 1040 policy LCPS has adopted.
Model policies for transgender youth are expected to be adopted for the 2021-2022 school year. Equality VA shared the following guidance for schools related to pronoun use:
PTA's should play a role in advocating for and supporting the implementation of these policies at the local level. According to the 2019 Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSN) VA Climate Survey, we learned that most secondary schools are not safe (i.e. affirming or free from bias and bullying) for LGBTQ+ students. This should matter to all parents, teachers, and students.
Schools should be safe for all. Contribute to improving the climate of your school by speaking out and advocating for protections for all LGBTQ+ faculty, staff, and students at your local school(s).
For more information please visit the Equity VA website or NOVA Resources for Parents for more information and ways to get involved.
In 2019, LCPS engaged in a process to learn more about how racial equity (or inequity) is experienced by students, teachers, and staff within the system. A copy of this findings of this report can (and should) be read here.
One of the key findings was this: “Despite efforts from the division, school site staff, specifically principals and teachers, indicate a low level of racial consciousness and racial literacy. People are unclear and fearful on how to participate in conversations about race, let alone respond to racially charged incidents.”
Many minority families reported instances of white students and adults using racial slurs in LCPS schools, during LCPS classes. Many also reported a lack of response from teachers and administrators when these slurs were overheard and reported. This is unacceptable and the LCPS administration and LCPS School Board have been doing the hard work of addressing these deficiencies within our system.
During the first week of school, several instances of students joining the virtual classes and using racial slurs or displaying inappropriate sexual or racist images occurred. Not only are these acts against the Student Code of Conduct but are also virtual examples of the actions that minority students and adults experience in-person in LCPS schools.
Talking about racist incidents is the only way to learn, move forward, and work toward creating an environment where everyone knows that these types of slurs and incidents are unacceptable.
Dr. Williams addressed this in his email to families on 9/11/2020. Teachers play a key role in recognizing and responding appropriately to racial incidents within the school community. LCPS has created a Protocol for Responding to Racial Slurs and Hate Speech and is following this in addressing the incidents that occurred during the first week of school.
The Hunt District PTA appreciates the teachers, staff and administrators for learning about and utilizing this protocol to make our schools a safe community for all. Just because a person (student or adult) has not experienced hate speech or racist incidents at school does not mean they do not happen – our own experiences are not the ONLY experiences that occur. We encourage parents, teachers, staff and students to take the time to read about the experiences of minority students within LCPS schools (see report above), utilize the LCPS Protocol, and become advocates for creating a safe community for all by speaking out against racial slurs, taking action when appropriate, and not allowing racist incidents to pass by without addressing them, however uncomfortable you may feel. Parents, teachers, and students all play a vital role in the process of creating racial equity within LCPS.
Resources for talking about race and racism can be found in many places; here are a few to get started:
-Anti-Racism Resources for All Ages
-National Museum of African American History & Culture: Talking About Race
Equity in distance learning (DL) has been a much-discussed topic recently. DL takes many resources: reliable internet, appropriate technology, and for many children, adults who are able to help. Technology considerations are only one of the concerns; access to school supplies, reading material, and food are others that LCPS and Loudoun County are working hard to solve. PTAs have a place in the web of solving DL issues. One way is by disseminating information to your local parents. This disseminating can be done through paper flyers, emails, websites, and facebook. Taking advantage of your PTA’s publicity streams and help get the word out about supports that the county and local non-profits are providing!
When thinking about this information distribution, please consider language access. Making sure families can access information in their home language is very important. PTAs using their local school’s LCPS page have the Google translate widget imbedded in the page. This widget is also available for PTA websites run on MemberHub, PTBoard and can be added to any page on other types of platforms. If you school has a high number of families who speak English as a second language consider working with your principal to provide professionally translated materials through LCPS, in as many forms as possible.
The Hunt District is ready and willing to help PTAs support equity in distance learning this year! Ideas could include school supply distribution, book distribution, etc. If you have an idea or questions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’m happy to help!