The Equity Policy (EP) for the MTSD was in the works for several years. As soon as the five-year Strategic Plan was adopted, the EP was one of the first things to be created. An original committee was put together to draft an EP for the school district in 2021. This was not known to most of the town and the committee quietly drafted a policy that was rejected by the administration. This committee was dissolved and very little is known about it now.
A new committee was convened and a Director of Equity, Wilmer Chavaria, was hired to oversee the drafting of a new EP. The salary of this Equity Director was over $100K, but the excuse was that the district was using COVID ESSER funds to pay him, so all was well. This new committee, with the help of Chavaria, drafted a new EP that was an expansive 14 pages long. It sought to overhaul the entire school district and every other school policy would be subject to it. According to a member of the drafting committee, they used a Critical Race Theory (CRT) template as the basis for the policy.
In early 2022 the school started having meetings open to the public about the policy and during those meetings there was much pushback. A forum was conducted by the district and a local consulting firm, owned by a state representative, that specializes in equity work. This forum was supposedly asking for feedback, which saw a lot of people speaking out against it. A multitude of emails questioning the policy and asking the district not to adopt it were sent. A petition was circulated and presented to the school board with 1000 signatures asking the board not to adopt the policy. Video of that presentation can be found on LCATV.
Those that spoke out against the policy have been called racists, Nazis, Christian Nationalists, and transphobes among other things. Many of those opposed are still being maligned and slandered on social media because we don’t agree with those pushing the equity agenda. The board did, ultimately, adopt the policy, to which all of its proponents rejoiced. However, much of the inflammatory wording and concepts were removed. The policy went from 14 pages in its original draft, down to just four pages. While we may not have gotten the result we really wanted, we did have a positive impact on the policy.
The original document claimed that there are existing inequities in society and that it is the school’s responsibility to redress these inequities. It also stated the purpose of the document was to be a reference for every policy moving forward in the school and disruption and transformation was needed at the individual and systemic level. Most of this language was taken out. Instead, the purpose section now just says that MTSD needs to make all children feel like they belong and that equity will be at the forefront of everything they do. It’s the school’s responsibility to give students a basic education not redress injustice, at least the broad statements about inequities existing throughout society and transforming individual students are no longer being stated as fact.
The definitions section was shaved down from 22 words to 11. The original definitions section also claimed that the definitions described therein were “neither exhaustive nor permanent in meaning”. The approved version only says that the definitions are those used in the document itself. This is key because it will not allow the school board or staff to alter or add definitions without first updating the policy. Some of the more provocative definitions removed included BIPOC, Colorblind, Cultural Wealth, Equity Tax, Forced Gendering, Meritocracy, and White Supremacy. Many of the words or definitions in the original could not be found in the dictionary, nor were they used in the document itself. Of the definitions that remained, they were, for the most part, corrected to their colloquial definitions. This, along with its shortened length, made the EP much more understandable. Especially egregious was the “white supremacy” definition which did not only include the correct definition, a belief that white people are superior to other races, but also stated that white supremacy is often subconscious and normalized throughout our lives. Essentially accusing all white people of harboring white supremacist views whether they were aware of it or not.
The remainder of the EP regards implementation of the policy and in the original was called “Required Actions”. Section A are actions related to the MTSD. Most of this section in the original document regarded formation of a “permanent” committee tasked with oversight of the entire district and which the board, superintendent and all school employees would have had to answer to and recommendations of which the district would have been required to follow. It also outlined additional DEI trainings for the board, DEI requirements for any contractors the district might partner with and that the EP in general would be a “central function of the superintendent”. The adopted policy simply states that the superintendent will encourage diversity and implement the EP. The committee is still in the policy, but it is now ad-hoc and overseen by the school board. All of the DEI trainings for the board and any requirements for contractors were removed from the policy. The EP is also not stated to be the main function of the superintendent. This is good since it would have taken time away from her other responsibilities (operations, student success and academic growth, etc) which seem to be lacking.
Section B is actions related to access inclusion and professional growth. The original EP included a lot of language about DEI, anti-racism, change campaigns etc. Much of that language was removed. It also originally stated how teachers would not be hired or promoted if they did not adhere to DEI propaganda and practice it in the classroom. It also outlined the many DEI trainings required by teachers. The original policy talked about going above and beyond required law in redistribution of resources to children based on their need as well as no celebration of holidays. Again, much of this was removed or changed in the adopted policy. It simply talks about curriculum being inclusive, including all families in school functions, and encourages learning about different holiday celebrations. It still requires DEI trainings, but fewer are required, and there are no longer hiring and promotion practices outlined in the document. Hopefully, teachers will be hired and promoted based on merit and not on their adherence to an ideology. The final clause of this section in the original EP directed the district to construct safe spaces specifically for BIPOC students. These spaces were to be designed for them to deal with their trauma and to treat their behavior differently than their peers’ based strictly on the color of their skin. All of that language was removed and the adopted EP now only instructs the schools to create safe spaces for all students, not just those of color. This was clearly unconstitutional, racist and against the law to treat some students differently than others based on skin color. This could have potentially opened the district up to lawsuits.
Section C is actions related to curriculum and instruction. This section was originally especially egregious. It started out stating that a new curriculum needed to be developed with DEI at the forefront. It discussed cracking down on “disinformation”, “hate speech” and “stereotypes”. Neutrality in teaching would not have been allowed. Teachers were going to be required to espouse the approved narrative. It claimed to not be policing educators, but then spelled out how concerns from students or other staff would be acted upon immediately. In addition, it described how students would be made to “acknowledge and account for historical inequities among racialized and marginalized groups” and be “attuned to the role of personal and systemic bias.” Telling students how horrible they are doesn’t seem advisable considering the already frightening level of anxiety and depression in teens. It also described how a procedure would be enacted to deal with parents’ concerns without changing course. In other words, brush parents off. Fortunately, all of this was removed. This section was riddled with first amendment violations that even the district’s own attorneys said would cause issue and open the district up for lawsuits. The adopted policy is much better with the first two clauses dealing with equal access of all students to the curriculum (although, this is already addressed in other policies) and diversity being represented in the curriculum. The third clause is the only one that was kept intact. This clause is about grading practices and how students will not be graded simply on merit but also their background and presumably their skin color.
Section D is actions related to data, assessment, and the distribution of resources. This section originally called for going above and beyond the law with distribution of resources and spoke about ongoing assessments looking for bias in outcomes based on race, ethnicity, or gender. It also mentioned trainings concerning “culturally sustaining practices”. The newly adopted policy’s section D simply describes collecting data and assessing it for bias and then trying to eliminate that bias. It also mentions complying with Act 173, not going above and beyond.
Section E is actions related to discipline. The original document had several clauses involving dealing with students with different types of trauma including “multi-generational trauma” and called for analyzing disciplinary measures especially when they involve students of color. It repeated itself multiple times and was full of buzz words such as “collective comprehensive supports”, “collective trauma” and “justice-oriented restorative approaches”. It also mentions avoiding police intervention and paying special attention to how we are disciplining students of color in several places. The adopted version does mention paying attention to students with trauma and “traditionally marginalized students” among other things, but never mentions police intervention except the SRO and is mostly concerned with looking at data and following discipline trends. Both versions discuss involvement of families, hiring support staff and partnering with community organizations. The sections are fairly similar in overall meaning, but the adopted version is much more to the point. The most important part that was removed was the clause that stated, “Adopt clear disciplinary procedure in cases where intimidation, harassment and discriminatory language or symbols are intentionally uttered or displayed.” Aside from the issue of who decides what language and symbols are “discriminatory”, this would have been a clear violation of students’ first amendment rights and, again, would have opened the district up to lawsuits.
Section F is actions related to athletics and student activities. It still calls for trainings for students in matters of equity and sportsmanship, but gone are all of the buzzwords such as “anti-racism, allyship, gender identity it sports, inclusion, and diversity”. This section originally called for “athletic virtue” instead of sportsmanship, but it was ultimately changed back in order to be more understandable. The final two clauses deal briefly with handling incidents of discriminatory behavior involving Milton’s athletes and the athletes and spectators of other teams. The policy originally called for “expediting” disciplinary procedures regarding those types of incidents, but that, along with “advocating for state wide reform” and “holding other districts accountable” (things MTSD has no jurisdiction over) were all taken out. It also originally called for creating procedures to address “hate, racism and manifestations of prejudice” for other off campus school sponsored events.
Lastly, there were appendices alluded to in the original equity policy. However, none were provided until the final draft. They included a graphic of Milton’s equity strategy and the joint racial equity resolution signed by the town selectboard and school board in 2020. The selectboard was approached to resign the joint resolution, but they declined, and ultimately the school board decided not to include it at all.
As you can see, the equity policy was changed immensely since it was first introduced. Proponents rejoiced at its adoption, but did they read it in its final form? Most of its teeth have been pulled and it will not have the immediate devastating impact on the school district that it was originally going to have. This is because of the efforts of everyone who wrote emails, signed petitions, attended meetings and spoke out. Your efforts were not in vain! You made an impact and it shows in the form the equity policy ultimately took. Yes, it was disappointing that it was passed at all, but considering what could have been, the fight was well worth it. Your voices saved the district from lawsuits, astronomical administration costs, and most importantly, saved many students from the bigotry of low expectations. If you hadn’t become involved, this policy would have quietly passed without opposition and then no one would have had a voice. Congratulations and stay vigilant!