Grandview, schools declare war on racism with new initiatives
Both the city of Grandview Heights and Grandview Heights Schools are exploring initiatives focusing on racial injustice.
Grandview Heights City Council is considering a resolution to declare racism as a public-health crisis.
"The resolution definitely has been inspired by everything that is happening in our nation," including the recent deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, councilwoman Melanie Houston said.
Houston is the primary sponsor of the resolution, although the other six members of council are serving as co-sponsors.
The measure speaks out against racism, but more importantly, Houston said, it acknowledges that racism and racial injustice are "pervasive in our culture and our institutions.
"Grandview is a welcoming place, but it's important that we recognize we're not immune to racial injustice and that we recognize that racial injustice is at the base of the founding of our community as well as our nation," she said.
The resolution is more than just a statement of support for a cause. It's also designed to be proactive, Houston said.
The resolution calls for the city to commit to "honestly and directly reviewing practices, systems, structures and policies ... to eliminate inequities or practices that may disparately impact persons of color."
Council's passage of the resolution would make 2021 a "Year of Racial Justice Learning," with planning to begin in summer and fall 2020 for a series of educational events about racial injustice and its impact on the history of Ohio and the Grandview community.
The educational programs will be developed in partnership with the Grandview Heights Public Library, Grandview Heights Schools, the board of health and community members, Houston said.
"We've reached out already to those groups, and they are on board with moving forward with this effort," she said.
Council held the first reading of the resolution at its June 15 meeting.
The third reading and vote on the issue are expected to take place during the Aug. 3 council meeting, Houston said.
Grandview Heights Schools Superintendent Andy Culp said he is "100 million percent" in favor of the resolution and the plan to develop an educational series.
The school district is working on its own set of initiatives to address the issues of racism and racial injustice, he said.
"We're evaluating putting together a racial injustice and inclusivity committee," Culp said. "It would include school board members, teachers, community members and students."
The committee would help establish for the district a mission statement, a vision and a set of intended outcomes to help encourage learning and build perspectives around the issues of racial injustice and inclusivity, he said.
The district's leadership team and building leadership teams also are developing a plan for the coming school year that would detail objectives to be embedded in Grandview's continuous improvement plan, Culp said.
Those objectives might include reviewing the K-12 curriculum through the lens of racial injustice, adding a Black history class, creating a speaker series to build perspective around the topics of racial injustice for students, implicit bias training for staff, and establishing partnerships with schools in central Ohio districts that have more diversity, he said.
Grandview Heights High School teachers this summer have launched a series of resources on Schoology, the district's learning-management system, and Instagram to help cultivate a discussion with and among students around the topics of justice, equality and antiracist thought and action.
"It's not structured like a traditional teacher-led class or club," said Bethany Black, a Grandview High School English teacher helping to coordinate the effort. "It's a collective of people who want to be antiracist and do antiracist work."
While teachers coordinated the initial launch of the resources on Schoology and Instagram, students have been and will be "heavily involved" moving forward, Black said.
Student responses to a survey are "guiding where the work goes," and students are asked to share resources to post.
"As a school community, we wanted to provide a place to process the thoughts and feelings our students are experiencing, as well as a place to learn, listen and self-assess," Black said.
"We've compiled these resources not as experts with the authoritative word on these topics, but rather as allies seeking to listen and learn," she said. "As such, almost all of the resources are written, created or curated by Black writers, artists and thinkers. We hope they will help us to learn, process and engage and to root out any inequities and racism in ourselves, our school and our community.
"We want to stand in solidarity and support with the Black community and amplify their voices," Black said.
Sixteen students as well as several staff members have joined the group on Schoology and other students, graduates and staff members follow the Bobcat Antiracism Collective Instagram account, Black said.
On June 26, six students participated in an online discussion of Ibram X. Kendi's article from the Atlantic, "The American Nightmare."
"We discussed the specifics of the article, broke down conversations we've been having with friends and family and discussed potential action steps," Black said.
"As teachers, we want to support the students in processing what they're learning and in their efforts to effect real change."