There has been a lot of conversation around the word “equity” within our district these past few months.
As a Latino mother, I find it particularly odd that Latino families, which make up more than 55 percent of our school district, are often left in the shadows of this usually well-intentioned dialogue.
Cambridge Dictionary defines “equity” as: “equal treatment; fairness”. This means that as much as we do not want to talk about race, language barriers, or even the color of our skin, I believe that we must because that is part of what will truly make our child’s experience in our schools a fair one.
This very reasoning is why it is so crucial for our community to have this hard dialogue. It does not mean that we, Latino families, want more resources, or have more needs that aren’t being met. It means that we simply want what we deserve in order for there to be equity: a seat at the table in regard to our children’s education.
It means looking inwardly at ourselves as a district and doing our best in providing every school within our district with a minimum of at least two Latino teachers. Not staff, not custodians, teachers. That simple gesture would do so much for our children, let alone our families, to see themselves within their schools. To know that higher education is achievable. To know that they too can change the lives of the future as educators.
It is such a powerful thing for any child to show him/her the vocations they can aspire to.
It also means talking about Latino parents’ and children’s experiences in our schools. Let me be clear, this does not mean that Anglo students do not have similar experiences, it simply means that there are different factors as to why.
For example, recently during the visioning process at a district elementary school, one of the recurring themes was that Latino families felt they were treated very differently than Anglo parents. Some even mentioned that although they offered to come into their child’s classroom to help, they were never contacted or asked to help with anything.
I’ve also met Latino parents incredibly frustrated with their child not being tested for gifted programs when they have requested it. One of the instances included a young girl whose mother requested it when she was a third-grader, and that child will be a middle schooler next school year. Thankfully, she will finally be tested next month, but that was only put in motion when her mother approached a representative from an outside organization and complained.
Recently I also spoke to a bright junior at a district high school, an active student, and a member of pre-collegiate. I inquired about her experience in school as it pertains to racism, and she shared, “The teachers know it’s happening, the students know it’s happening, but everyone pretends it isn’t.”
Students in the student activist group AJUA (Association of Youth United in Action), mentioned that some students at GSHS wear hats that say “Border Patrol”, and that the administration has only very vaguely addressed these issues. We must, as educators, parents, and community members, provide a safe space for our children, and our schools in their entirety should be a safe academic learning space.
See, when we decide not to talk about race and language barriers and even the color of our skin, we take away the opportunity to better understand perspective and experience. Our Latino children are dealing with issues that do not affect Anglo children, and we need to be honest about that.
If our end goal as parents is to give our children the tools and opportunities to succeed in a changing world, we must be honest with them and ourselves. We must stop and reflect that, yes, all our kids should be successful, and yes, all our kids should be motivated. Expectations should be made higher and be made achievable for all students, but if we do not reflect on who we are currently trying to guide and what their life experience is in our schools, then can our conversations about equity be sincere?
After speaking to parents within our district it has been shared with me the feel for a community is needed. Specifically in our schools, and I strongly believe in order for that to happen we need to have honest dialogues. Dialogues where we are not easily offended. Dialogues where we need to listen to understand, rather than to respond. Dialogues where ideas can be brought forth in a safe space, and not shut down because they are different.
Equity. Giving us as Latino parents the opportunity to actually speak up for our children, and not by using organizations or assumptions on our behalf. Giving us empowerment as parents, and not holding our hands like we are unwilling to do it ourselves. Believing in our children, knowing they are capable of becoming doctors and teachers and world-changers, and then pushing them to make it attainable for themselves. That includes working hard as educators, parents, and community members, to help make those dreams possible, for all our kids, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or ability.
Jasmin Ramirez is the apparent victor of the election for District D of the Roaring Fork School Board, but sent this column before election day.