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Columbia School Board Faces Equity Concerns

Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash

Columbia residents voiced their concerns about equity in Columbia Public Schools Monday night.

In a five-hour Board of Education meeting, parents advocated for open recording of meetings where they discussed their students’ individualized education plan with instructors. Other parents condemned the district’s use of seclusion and restraint on students.

The board decided to look more closely at both of those issues.

Carla London, the district’s chief equity officer, was present at the meeting. She came under public scrutiny last week when a local organization said she wasn’t handling issues of diversity and equity appropriately.

Race Matters, Friends president Traci Wilson-Kleekamp said she wants the school district to more effectively track and analyze data on the training of teachers on restorative efforts and social justice.

On Monday night, school superintendent Peter Stiepleman highlighted the district’s achievements including training teachers on restorative practices and collecting feedback on how the training went.

Race Matters, Friends continues to call for London’s resignation.

London would not address the call for resignation directly but said she is proud of the work CPS is doing. She said the district is having regular sessions with all teachers in the district.

“So when you're talking about changing mindsets, and having people really reflect on their socialization, that's deep work,” London said. “If it was a switch that we could flip, we would have all done that a long time ago.” 

London said the teachers are committed to using restorative practices in their classrooms and that restorative practices help foster positive relationships.

“As a student who was not treated equitably growing up, I'm passionate about the work that we do here and really making that every student and every staff member and every parent feels welcome and included in our conversations and (in) our buildings,” London said.

The district named London to the position in May 2017, according to a district press release. Before that, she served as the supervisor for student and family advocacy and the director of student services.