Combating discrimination: District changes regarding racism

permission to print image: Gale

Following the murder of George Floyd, a desire for civil reform sparked a nationwide protest, causing many students and staff members from all over the district to change and improve policies. Olentangy students and staff have worked to improve procedures and decrease the racism in the district.

With the nation becoming more aware of racial injustice, learning about ways to better society is needed. Over the summer the @DearOLSD Instagram account began to show people how minority students felt and how they were treated and soon after, the district began to work to improve the system within the school district.

“My reaction from @DearOLSD was all over the board,” District Diversity Coordinator Heather Cole said. “I felt a deep pain and sadness for the kids sharing their stories and simultaneously a pride in the fact that they mobilized themselves and had the initiative to have their voices be heard. They clearly didn’t feel like they were being heard, so they made sure they were.”

The need to change was prevalent after this and it led to the district holding five town meetings to discuss what they can improve. Students spoke their opinions and a new plan was developed to help improve the community.

“We compiled all of the suggestions into a document organized by the five drivers of change. So, it’s a 3–5-year plan. One thing we are doing for accountability is hiring an external auditor,” Cole said. “Outside people will come in and review our processes on our reporting, investigation, disciplinary practices, academics, discipline and attendance data, and how there could be inequalities across subgroups like our athletic programs, hiring processes, district policies and student handbook,” Cole said.

Additionally, one Professional Development day was used to help get rid of biases and show the effects of microaggressions. Several students volunteered to share instances from their life and the videos were shown to staff members to create empathy and understanding for those who might not have seen it before.

“Seven Olentangy high school students [came in] and we are so grateful because it was a very impactful video that they shared. One of the things students were asked to do is to share what the microaggression was and how it made them feel or how it affected them.

“They felt completely overlooked with that part of their identity. If you are one of the only people from that historically marginalized community and are continuously having the microaggressions against you, feelings of isolation can be strong,” Cole said.

While the new plans are in place to help solve this issue, students can also work to actively better themselves and become more empathetic towards others. Joining Diversity club or Black Empowerment Club would be another way to fight against the issues we see today.

“During each Black Empowerment Club meeting, we talk about upcoming assemblies and about how to make the school a better and more welcoming place for everyone,” Black Empowerment Club member and sophomore Aimen Chaudhary said.