Police brutality is at one end of the school-to-prison pipeline. Schools are at the beginning of it. If we are serious about doubling down against institutional racism, we need to look at all the ways our educational institutions are built upon colonization and white supremacy.
This goes deeper than checking in on how everyone is feeling. We as a district have established that racial disparity exists in our public school system by examining data: graduation rates, rates of participation in advanced classes, rates of suspension and other disciplinary acts, and grading. We have displayed this data to our staff alongside basic professional development around implicit bias. We have also worked harder to hire more teachers and staff of color. All of this is good and important work, but these are examples of ways to address the effects of institutional racism. They do nothing to change the institution.
One tangible way that I feel Eugene School District 4J has recently doubled down on the side of oppression is by heightening a militaristic and centralized system of surveillance and enforcement. Security cameras with the ability to trace a person’s movements throughout the school and that are monitored in a central district office do not make students who are at risk safer. We know that, without making a personal connection, without getting to know people and learn their story, when we are just anonymous faces, implicit bias will favor whiteness. Security cameras and centralized police forces are designed to favor whiteness, to protect whiteness and to make white people feel safe. Institutionally, this is a change we can make as a district to decolonize our schools today.