Port Huron Area School Board passes resolution to eradicate racism


The Port Huron Area School Board recently passed a resolution to "Eradicate Racism and Create More Equitable and Inclusive Schools for All Children."


The board voted unanimously to adopt the resolution at its June 22 regular meeting, which took place virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 7-0 vote came four weeks to the day that George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd's neck, while he was prone on the street with his hands cuffed behind his back, for eight minutes and 46 seconds. The incident sparked protests around the nation and world against structural racism in all of its forms, including policing and education.


The city of Port Huron adopted a resolution declaring racism a public health emergency on June 8, and Marysville adopted a similar one on June 22. Port Huron also passed a resolution condemning the murder of Floyd, and Marysville adopted one condemning the killing of Floyd and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.


Board President Tim McColloch read the resolution aloud before the vote.


"The Port Huron Area School District stands firmly against all acts of individual and systemic racism," said McColloch. "We wish to end violence and injustices and unequivocally declare that black lives matter and that an injustice to one is an injustice to all.


“We have a moral obligation to provide a safe, equitable and high-quality education for all students where we celebrate all the attributes that form children and hold true to the ideal that we are all created equal. We believe that our schools are a vital part of a much larger world and can play a powerful role in changing people’s perceptions and processes... We believe that educators should be life-long learners about race and systemic racism and should be provided the necessary resources to facilitate discussions of race and racism and to help themselves and students understand history and humanity from diverse points of view.


“We believe that the district has a responsibility to continually reflect upon and amend curriculum, training, policies and practices to help root out racism. We believe that in partnership with the district we must review current and proposed state budgets, standards, policies, legislation and policy guidance to ensure that they promote equity and aggressively discourage and disrupt practices that allow racial inequities to persist..."


Trustee Brian Winters called the resolution "a very powerful message."


"It's good to get this in proactive form," said Winters. "We're moving ahead with it and taking a stand."


Winters was the only board member to comment on the resolution.


Trustee Denise Brooks introduced the resolution, supported by board Vice President Laurie Oldford.


“I am really proud of our board of education for deciding we need to make a statement and it needs to be a proactive statement,” said Superintendent Jamie Cain in a statement on June 25. “Everyone knows what is going on in our world right now, especially in our country and the district put out a statement a few weeks ago that simply communicated we won’t tolerate racism. Our board of education certainly felt that was a priority for them as well.”


Keely Baribeau, director of communication for the district, said Port Huron Schools has for the past four years taken part in a statewide Equity Pilot in partnership with the Michigan MTSS Technical Assistance Center and the Michigan Department of Education.


Keely said Central Middle School, Holland Woods Middle School and Port Huron High School have engaged in staff development exercises to reduce racial disparities in discipline.


"Some of the professional development topics include understanding institutional racism, identity awareness, impact of power and privilege, implicit bias, and culturally responsive practices," Baribeau said. "The district is looking forward to expanding this work to all schools."


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