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How Parent Groups Are Addressing Racial Equity

Parent Groups Racial Equity

As the country wrestles with issues around racism and racial equity, parent groups are taking positive steps toward inclusiveness.

by Elizabeth S. Leaver


Observing Historical Events

This past year many groups and schools commemorated Juneteenth (June 19), a day celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States, for the first time. At Franklin Elementary in Madison, Wis., about 50 people joined an event organized by the school’s Parent Teacher Group. According to the Cap Times website, groups gathered at nearby Lapham and Marquette elementary schools in a similar fashion, organized by the Equity in Action group that is part of the paired schools’ PTG.

Having More Open Discussions

In Darien, Conn., the Council on Darien School parents took part in a Zoom discussion called “Current State of Affairs: Institutional Racism & Real Talk.”

During a Williamson County Schools Board of Education meeting in Franklin, Tenn., parents called for the formation of a group to discuss racial issues pertaining to the schools and provide recommendations for action.

“Start a diversity task force—a real one,” said parent Anne McGraw, according to the Williamson Herald.com website. “Be on the right side of history, and be the leaders I know you can be for these students. As the quote goes, ‘Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.’”

McGraw also asked the district to include items pertaining to diversity and inclusion in its strategic plan.

More inclusion leads to better involvement; we’ll help you get started

Forming Diversity Groups and Safe Conversation Spaces

At Nancy Ryles Elementary in the Beaverton School District in Ore., the PTO facilitates a group called Coffee, Culture, Connections. It provides “a nice chance to welcome new families and offer(s) a safe place to navigate the school as well as a wonderful opportunity to foster cultural learning between existing families,” says Jennifer Vondracheck, PTO president.

“We meet monthly and usually have a combo of free chatting time and a [planned] conversation (a math teacher explaining workshop math, prepping for Culture Night),” she says. “We have an assortment of teachers, principal, parents, family members...both English speaking and English learners. We even have a couple parents that moved schools that still come back to visit.”

Parents and guardians of Black students in the Rock Island-Milan School District in Illinois were invited to take part in the African American Parent Advisory Council, newly launched as a way for caregivers to connect and increase district engagement.  

“Really the council should be a place for parents to be able to gain an understanding of district practices and use that information to see how do we decrease systematic barriers,” council founder Tiffany Stoner-Harris told the Quad City Times.

Holding Multicultural Events

The Mills Elementary PTA in Austin, Texas, holds a diversity festival every year that celebrates the different cultures and countries of school families. Children receive a passport and get stamps and stickers from various countries or cultures. They also get to try different food and drink and people dress up. “It's really fun and validating of the differences that make our school strong” says Heidi Connealy, festival cochair.

Diversifying Books and Arts

Many schools across the country are broadening their schools’ book collections with intentional selections of books about people of color, and by nonwhite authors. Scholastic’s list of 28 Books That Amplify Black Voices includes picture books, middle grade, and young adult.

In an email sent to the Micheltorena Elementary school community in Los Angeles, the Friends of Micheltorena parent group sent an anti-racist reading list for adults, which included such bestsellers as Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum, and White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Race, by Robin DiAngelo.

Other schools are making efforts to bring in a more diverse roster of speakers and artists.

“Our music director made it a point to bring in guest speakers [of color],” says Carly Paul, past PTO president at Immaculate Conception Catholic Schools in Warren, Mich. “They had fabulous stories to tell about their varied journeys into music (and success). He also made sure our students learned a diverse selection of music (and not just because the standard called for it).” The kids loved his class.

Originally posted in 2020 and updated regularly.

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