Letter to Editor for May 27, 2021

School district’s equity work is ‘imperative in reducing disparities’

As a third generation Camasonian raising the fourth generation, I have a vested interest in this community. For the past nine years, I have worked with children and families furthest from opportunity, and I know the barriers these children experience firsthand. This work has placed me in a position to speak confidently of the importance of dismantling barriers and reducing disparities so that all students from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade succeed.

I am writing to offer my support and backing of the Camas School District, school board, Camas equity committee and staff that are actively working to implement a diversity, equity and inclusion plan. The focus of all diversity, equity and inclusion work is to reduce disparities and dismantle structural barriers that continue to plague children and families furthest from opportunity. This work is imperative in the Camas School District, as is evident in the most recent school data accessible from Washington State Report Card.

The most recent data suggests that Camas School District students consist of 69.4 percent white, 10.7 percent Hispanic/Latino, 9.7 percent two or more races, 8.8 percent Asian, 1% Black/African American and 0.2 percent Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders. Several sets of statistics that are important to look at within the overall data suggest there are large disparities that are disproportionately affecting children of color and children furthest from opportunity, including the discipline rate by student demographics; assessments by demographics; student programs and characteristics; and the ninth-graders’ “on-track” data.

The most recent data shows there are clear and irrefutable disparities that disproportionately affect our children of color and children furthest from opportunity in the Camas School District. The work and emphasis the school board and district has placed on diversity, equity and inclusion is imperative in reducing disparities and to continue to offer the high-level of excellence our community and parents have become accustomed to.

As part of Camas’ diversity, equity and inclusion strategy, the term “culturally responsive instruction” appears, and many have confused this with “critical race theory,” which it is not. Culturally responsive education is one of the most effective means of meeting the learning needs of culturally different students. To teach using culturally responsive instruction, teachers incorporate elements of the students’ culture in their teaching. They listen to their students and allow students to share their personal stories. They spend considerable time in the classroom as well as outside of the classroom developing personal relationships with their students and families. By saying this curriculum should not be allowed to be taught in the Camas School District enforces the structural barriers and disparities in our schools and community that plague children and families furthest from opportunity.

We must come together as a community, get uncomfortable and embrace diversity, equity and inclusion to ensure all children in our school district have a positive and upward trajectory in life.

Thank you to the Camas School Board for your leadership and work to ensure all children succeed.

Grant Gilson,

Camas