Updated: Jul 6, 2019
My name is Tonya Coleman and I am one of the leaders of ROAR - Residents Organizing Against Racism. I, along with many other ROAR members are a part of the district’s Equity Advisory Council and I, along with a few other ROAR members are a part of the Mayor’s City Equity Task Force. We are a group largely made up of parents and community members within our district plus valuable supporters we’ve gained from outside of the community working to change a culture of intolerance, ignorance and systematic racism in our school district.
We formed due to the many racist incidents occurring in our schools and to continue the work of the brave and courageous group of students at Chaska High School who stood up to their administration and said NO to intolerance and ignorance when they were told their Black History Month posters wouldn't be allowed to be displayed on the walls of the school. And as a result, had the audacity to protest in the halls just for their history to be acknowledged and celebrated…to know that they matter.
We give voice to those students and parents suffering at the hands of intolerance and racism in schools across this district who are afraid to come forward to share their stories due to backlash. We continue to amplify the many heart-wrenching stories told at the April school board meeting from countless kids and parents.
ROAR is a safe space to share, receive support and activate for change.
As I stand here and speak on behalf of ROAR I am humbled by their stories, encouraged by their bravery and empowered by their resilience. My family and I have personally been traumatized directly by the inaction, intolerance and mishandling of racist incidents by the administration of Chaska High School, but this is bigger than me. It is bigger than any one school and it is absolutely bigger than one man. BUT change happens when there is accountability.
As a form of protest, ROAR created a petition in April 2019 that received over 800 signatures with a list of action items and changes we wanted to see in our schools as it related to racism and equity. The district has responded and in a BIG WAY!
The district’s response to our petition is just the beginning. The district's commitment in your petition response to implementing systemic change in our school district is the right thing to do.
From our ROAR petition District 112 has agreed to:
Transparent Accountability by:
placing equity updates as a recurring part of the school board meeting’s agenda
hosting ongoing community engagement like the upcoming town hall
making the Equity Audit results public
producing an annual public equity report that tracks progress and reports outcomes
Restructure Equity Leadership and Advisory Groups by
establishing an Equity Advisory Council to advise and inform leadership on equity & inclusion
Trauma-Focused, Victim-Centered Support Protocols by
placing additional trauma resources and social workers at CHS this year
placing a mental health practitioner in every building next year
Updated, Racially-Informed Curriculum by
engaging in a district-wide equity audit to uncover curriculum gaps and committing to addressing what’s missing and taking a hard look at what you’re teaching to make sure you’re not just telling one part of the story
committing to focused professional development and training of both administrative/building leaders and teacher to ensure they have tools and resources available to facilitate conversations about race, equity and inclusion within their classrooms
Proportionally Representative Faculty and Staff by
making this a priority by increasing outreach on websites and job boards targeting diverse candidates of color including HBCUs
investigating implementing the Grow Your Own models
Mandatory Implicit Bias Training by
having leadership attend Dr. Khalifa’s Culturally Response School Leadership Institute this summer
providing Equity training for all staff
providing implicit bias training to be completed by all teachers over the summer
We recognize that there are areas of the petition that cannot be publicly discussed.
We also recognize and appreciate the dialogues around our initial demand for “Zero Tolerance” Anti-Racism policy. After those discussions, it was clear to us that we agree with the district’s position that a “Zero Tolerance” racism policy NOT be created due to the potential mishandling of such a policy to already marginalized students. However, we do expect there to be clear Anti-Racism protocols created and in place by the next school year.
THIS IS INCREDIBLE PROGRESS. BUT IT IS ONLY THE BEGINNING. NOW IT’S TIME TO IMPLEMENT.
ROAR will continue to partner with the school district and the city of Chaska to work side-by-side in changing the culture, systems and protocols of our school district and our community. The stakes are just too high not to.
Thank you to Clint Christopher, Amy LaDue, Celi Haga, Stan Allen, the Chaska Mayor’s office, the Carver Mayor’s office and the Chief of Police, Scott Knight for your partnership and support in this journey. After we have relentlessly attended school board meetings since November and attended countless meetings with community and district leaders, we know that you have heard us and are willing to have those tough conversations and stand with us as we work together to create a better school district and community for ALL Chaska residents.
We will continue to be a part of the solutions moving forward and hold this school district accountable to the things they have agreed to in our petition as well as continue to work with them on the things that were not addressed in the petition response.
WE ARE NOT GOING AWAY.
A friend once told me that I remind her of John Lewis’ catch phrase, “Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” This work isn’t easy but it is absolutely necessary.
Martin Luther King said that “Constructive, nonviolent tension is necessary for growth. It seeks to dramatize the issue so much that is can no longer be ignored.
Thank you to the many ROAR members and supporters who have stood with us. WE ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE!