The School Board on Tuesday night formally appointed the members of the 25-seat Ad Hoc Committee on Equity, even as a new flurry of discrimination accusations emerged.
The creation of the panel was approved unanimously Feb. 26, and the panel was charged with examining ways to ensure marginalized and historically disenfranchised groups receive equitable treatment in the school district. With the membership finally set, the panel will hold its organizational meeting April 4 and meet with the consultant hired to investigate district-wide equity concerns at its April 11 meeting.
The final appointments were made March 26 following an hour of public comments during which speakers criticize the proposed selection of new ninth-grade history textbooks that link Muslims and terrorism, and calls from members of the Loudoun County NAACP to investigate systematic shortcomings that they said have resulted in fewer than 10 black students gaining admission to the Academies of Loudoun.
Speakers raising concerns about the new history books, which had been slated for formal approval next month, said the texts provide an incomplete and misleading narrative of the history of terrorism—one likely to distort the beliefs of young students and promote a false narrative about Islam. Several of the speakers urged administrators to consider alternative textbooks that were adopted in Fairfax County.
Loudoun NAACP President Michelle Thomas was among the speakers raising concerns about the low participation of black students in the gifted and talented programs throughout the school system, resulting in extremely low admittance to the Academies of Loudoun in its first year of classes. By contrast, students from Asian backgrounds disproportionally make up the gifted and talented and academies rosters.
“I submit that your pipeline is your issue,” Thomas said, urging administrators to do more—and do it more quickly—to get black students involved starting at the elementary level. “You said you were going to fix the problem next year? We can’t wait.”
Gladys Burke said another concern is that the admission process for the academies is vague. “The NAACP is not looking to lower standards, or change the rules, we just want to understand them,” she said.