Fleetwood Initiates Diversity Community to Guarantee Equality

Posted on April 2, 2021 by

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“I joined the diversity committee to bring change and stop any racism in the schools,” sophomore Max Hernandez, a member of the diversity committee, said.

What is the diversity committee? It’s a group of people dedicated to help make Fleetwood a better school district by protecting students from racism and discrimination. Led by the assistant superintendent, Dr. Amaal Awadalla, and assisted by science teacher Mr. Todd Driesbach and English teacher Mrs. Sarah Wilkinson, the diversity committee is working to make plans on how to better the school.

The diversity committee was created to provide students with an opportunity to share their voice in an effort to make much needed changes for all students to not only have equality, but also equity, within  FASD, no matter what their identities may be.

There is a difference in equality and equity, and in most cases, equity is more important. Equality is treating everyone the same regardless of need, but equity treats people differently depending on what they need so that everyone is on equal footing. Equality in school may be teachers doing their best to teach everyone the same material, but equity is when they pay attention and help a struggling student to succeed while students who excel already manage on their own. In education, equity is more important, especially to those who experience discrimination. 

“Change happens through learning,” Awadalla states.

In order to create equity within the district, the focus will be on educating students and staff on “cultural competency and culturally responsive classrooms.” Many students within the high school have faced discrimination, whether it be racism, homophobia, or something else. Teachers may unwittingly have unfair biases of which even they themselves are unaware. The diversity committee’s goal is to help teachers and students be aware of their actions. Members of the committee admit to having experienced racism and homophobia throughout their lives.

“Almost my entire time in middle school, I dealt with racism all the time,” Hernandez said. “When I would stand up or fight back, I was punished for doing so. I was told not to stand up, and let the adults handle it, but that’s the reason I had to stand up for myself in the first place. The adults weren’t handling it like they were supposed to.”

Unfortunately, Max is not alone. Many students did not join the diversity committee, which begs the question, “Why?” Students who have experienced racism have reason to try and help, but only a fraction of the invited students made the first meeting. Wilkinson believes that it’s because people are nervous.

“Talking about personal experiences that are hurtful can be very difficult, and not a lot of students feel comfortable doing that,” she said.

Some students may also remain skeptical of this committee, and they have every right to feel that way; some are skeptical that this committee could actually make any changes happen. For those who have had no escape from prejudiced individuals, even if it manifested in microaggressions, some students know that, nine times out of ten, the adults don’t really do enough to help. So, why think that after all this time, things could change? But, others really do believe this committee can help to improve the district.

“I do believe this will change us. I think, even if we just reach a few people at a time, that will be a success,” Wilkinson said. “We need to look at our curriculum and what we do in the classrooms. We have to stop pretending that everyone is the same and start embracing our differences. I, for one, am thrilled to be a part of this group because I know we can make a difference.”

“I believe it will make a difference and have an impact on all the students, changing them in the process,” Hernandez said.

“I believe, if we all work on this together, we will see positive changes. It is a process and will take time, but we can get there,” Awadalla said. 

The members of the committee are hopeful for Fleetwood’s future of equity, but the small group is missing one key feature: the willingness of everyone else in the district to help and to learn. If you are a student, you can email Awadalla, Wilkinson, or Driesbach to join or see what you could do to help. Change can happen with only one person…but it’s a lot easier and faster if everyone chips in.

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Posted in: Madison Musitano