Hilliard Board of Education approves creation of equality and diversity committee

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group
The Hilliard City Schools Central Office is at 2140 Atlas St. in Columbus.

An equity and diversity committee has been created by the Hilliard Board of Education. 

“I think it’s evident tonight that we have a lot of work to do in our school district and in our community,” Superintendent John Marschhausen told board members as he received their unanimous approval March 15 to create the committee. 

Marschhausen’s comments followed those of more than a dozen people who spoke for and against whether it is appropriate for a teacher to indicate a position on any social or political ideology. 

Some speakers said it should not occur and others said the display of an image depicting, for example, acceptance of those in the LBTGQ community indicates a safe environment to students. 

Emma Rumbalski, a Hilliard Darby High School graduate, said flags that identify with certain groups are not being used for “virtue signaling” but as a way for students to know who they can talk to about their experiences. 

“When a student sees a teacher supporting their identity, it acknowledges their systemic struggles and they are able to feel safe in the classroom,” Rombalski said. 

The composition and direction of the committee to address these issues has not been determined. 

“The board committee has not yet been formed and was just created last night,” district Communications Director Stacie Raterman said March 16. “No parameters have been set.” 

No timetable has been set for naming members, Raterman added.

Marschhausen said he will recommend appointees from among the district’s administrators and expects board President Lisa Whiting to inform him who among the five school board members will serve as its chairperson and as a second board member on the committee. 

Whiting said the creation of the committee “is a step in the right direction for Hilliard City Schools” and lauded the effort of the equity and diversity task force whose work led to the creation of a formal board-appointed equity and diversity committee. 

Marschhausen said he also will ask Mary Kennedy, president of the Hilliard Education Association, to appoint teachers to the committee. 

“At the (board’s) work session (April 12), the equity and diversity task force will be providing recommendations for policy, recommendations for curriculum and recommendations for ongoing staff development (to the committee),” Marschhausen said. 

Committee meetings will be public, he said. 

“It is important that we, as a board, have our conversations and take our actions with purpose and intentionality as we work together to implement and discuss the changes recommended by the task force,” Marschhausen said. “The transparent and open way to have this work is through public meetings.” 

Marschhausen told board members to prepare for an arduous task. 

“This isn’t going to be a quick fix,” he said. “Dealing with hard issues is difficult and it requires a civil, open conversation at a community level.” 

Students, teachers and parents will be invited to participate in the conversations of the committee, Marschhausen said. 

“It’s incumbent upon us to create (an) environment for us to have civil conversations as a community about tough issues (but) we have to take the emotion out (and) to listen to our students,” he said. 

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekCorvo