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Addressing racism and the need for inclusive, positive change


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Joy Hofmeister State Seal

Dear School and District Leaders,

The tragic death of George Floyd and subsequent protests across our nation, including those in Oklahoma, provide an opportunity for real and transformative change. Sadly, this opportunity is not a unique one, given how racism is so deeply entrenched and pervasive in nearly every corner of society. Systemic racism has no place in any institution, much less within what has been called the “great equalizer,” public education.

The need for systemic change has long been at the fore of public school concerns. Progress has been made, certainly, but true equity remains as elusive as it is critical, and, as a result, far too many of our children float through school marginalized, disenfranchised and forgotten.

Amid the national dialogue and what feels like real opportunity for change, I urge all of us in public education to challenge our own biases and open ourselves up to an education of our own. Engaging in unblinking self-examination and courageous conversations can be healing, even if uncomfortable. Talk to your students and staff, but listen most of all. We are not bystanders. Now is the time to ramp up efforts to build a positive school culture cemented in dignity and respect. Administrators must research policies and practices that ensure school is a safe place for students and staff to share their experiences and perspectives.

I invite you to hold myself and the Oklahoma State Department of Education accountable at the state level. Policy initiatives are informed by collaboration with a dynamic equity working group reflecting the diversity of Oklahoma’s student population. We have worked to unmask and remedy a cultural bias that holds back students and widens opportunity gaps. We have focused on recruiting more diverse teachers and school building leaders who reflect our student bodies and add important perspectives to school policies and functions.

There is a long, long way to go, however, and this agency and I -- like all of us – are committed to listen and learn.

For resources on how to become a more inclusive school and empower your educators to connect with students, please visit the OSDE counseling page at https://sde.ok.gov/counseling. Also visit the American School Counselor Association at https://www.schoolcounselor.org/school-counselors/professional-development/learn-more/race-and-equity-resources. Together we can equip our students with the tools to create a more equitable and empathetic society.

Sincerely,

Joy Signature  
 

Joy Hofmeister
State Superintendent of Public Instruction

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Last updated on June 5, 2020