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Understanding equity, diversity and inclusion in Lake Stevens School District

In April, the Gov. Inslee signed into law Engrossed Senate Substitute Bill 5044 which created a new section of RCW 28.343: An act relating to equity, cultural competency, and dismantling institutional racism in the public school system. The law requires that Washington state school employees undergo training to help them better understand culturally responsive practices in the classroom that will promote equitable outcomes for all students. It will also help teachers across the state become more aware and involved in the diversity and equity work that is being done to better serve historically underserved students. This bill has no component of training or curriculum for students. 

We understand that members of our community are concerned and confused about the requirements of ESSB 5044. We also understand that there is a great deal of attention around Critical Race Theory (CRT) and whether it is taught in our schools.

What is Critical Race Theory?
CRT is a scholarly legal theory used in courtrooms and legal arguments, not a curriculum or pedagogy in education. Unfortunately, the misunderstanding of CRT has led some concerned citizens to think that children in our schools are at risk from this legal theory. In recent comments and emails to our school board, we have noticed that some of our community members have confused CRT with the district’s work around developing students' social-emotional learning; and with our district's commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Social-emotional learning and diversity, equity and inclusion are not new topics in our district.

Our mission and work moving forward
Rather than add to this confusion, we will share here our mission, and how we work to make this a reality of every student in LSSD: “Our students will be contributing members of society and lifelong learners, pursuing their passions and interests in an ever-changing world.” 

The terms “equity, diversity and inclusion” may have become popularized recently, but in LSSD we have been striving for these ideals for some time. To be clear, we have a long way to go. Disparities in our community like many others are easier to miss if we don’t look too closely. However, our willingness to examine data from a range of perspectives informs us how our schools are working for all students in our school community—and helps us learn to do better.

For the future of our children and our community, we must continuously unearth barriers that get in the way of student learning. We must learn to hold and facilitate constructive conversations about those barriers, including racism. This includes expanding our knowledge and learning about our own biases and blindspots; addressing systemic or invisible barriers to equitable opportunities; taking into account student and community diversity; and promoting inclusionary educational practices that propel all students to their greatest potential. 

Next steps
We will provide updated communication and opportunities for community members to be more involved in conversations and planning around equity, diversity and inclusionary practices in our district—not as a curriculum to be taught—but as a way for educators to respond to the challenges of student learning that will most certainly be magnified after a global pandemic. 

Finally, we reject the notion that a focus on equity, diversity, and inclusionary practices undermines or diminishes student learning for any group. In fact, students in Lake Stevens have shown time and again that just the opposite is true. From LinkCrew at LSHS, to outstanding competitive teams, to service clubs at every level, our students demonstrate that when they stand together they lift each other up—just the mix of skills and passion they need for a bright future in an ever-changing world. 

We want every student in our district to reach their full potential. It is not an option. It is a moral imperative. 

We thank you for partnering with us in this important work. If you have questions, or wish to discuss this further, please reach out to us by calling the district office at 425-335-1500 or by emailing tellus@lkstevens.wednet.edu

Sincerely,

Mari Taylor, Board President
Dr. Ken Collins, Superintendent