5/11/21 Statement from the NPSB

Statement from the NPSD Board of School Directors - May 11, 2021
Posted on 05/11/2021
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North Penn is a more accurate reflection of America than many school districts across the country. North Penn is roughly 60% White and 40% non-White. This diversity is a source of pride for our school district and a reason people choose to come and live in our community.

Our diverse community including Black, Hispanic, Mixed Race, Asian American, Pacific Islander, and White students speak a variety of languages, observe different belief systems, and worship in a multitude of ways. The diversity inherent in this community is a blessing. But it is a blessing that requires a shared commitment to make it work for everyone.

We find ourselves at an inflection point in this community. A recent event at the high school has reignited debate about how to support all students, regardless of race, religious belief, ethnicity, and gender. People are questioning our commitment to making all students feel safe, respected, and included in the North Penn experience. It is a call to action.

As a school board, we have prioritized cultural proficiency work with an acknowledgment that there are problems inherent in society and reflected in our schools. We have committed to this work and we’ve instituted policies and practices designed to combat racism and bias head-on.

For example, throughout the 2020-2021 school year, North Penn has required all staff to take part in cultural proficiency and/or implicit bias training every month. The importance of this work cannot be overstated. We heard this week from community members who were outraged that a Muslim student’s hijab, removed from her head during a fight, was not returned to her, or that any other cover was provided to her once the fight was ended. This is a reminder that our work is an ongoing process as people become aware of what and how things need to change.

Taking the time to ensure not just teachers and administrators, but security personnel, secretaries, cafeteria workers, classroom assistants, and maintenance personnel have an understanding of the beliefs, values, and traditions of all our students of faith, be they Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Sikh or Christian is imperative to ensure a situation like this does not happen again.

The work goes far beyond training. Over the past three years, we have begun the task of diversifying our staff at all levels. We have committed to a multi-year plan focused on actionable goals and action steps to support all students through more equitable practices. We have audited our libraries and purchased texts that introduce our students to diverse characters, settings, and experiences. We believe representation matters. We passed an Equity Policy that beginning this fall will require our administration to share with the board and the community at large data related to disproportionality with a mandate to demonstrate improvement year over year. We believe transparency changes practices. We continue to raise awareness of religious holidays by making Eid al-Fitr and Diwali observed holidays on next year’s calendar. We have worked to empower parents with opportunities to be partners with us in our cultural proficiency work. We believe we cannot do this without our families and community partners.

What’s been done is not enough. It did not prevent those who feel marginalized along with their allies in this community from speaking out to express their anger, frustration, and sadness about the events that transpired last week. We will continue this work with an eye to a future where all our students feel loved, safe and respected and where we have earned the trust of all members of the North Penn community. We are working so that every North Penn student has an experience where they feel accepted, embraced, valued, and safe, and ask you to join with our school community in this work.