116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — The Linn-Mar Community School District has hired an equity director and created the Linn-Mar Equity Advisory Committee following a social justice rally in May where minority students described prejudicial and segregated treatment in the district.
“It breaks my heart when I hear that kids have had negative opportunities and injustice during their schooling,” said Nathan Wear, an associate superintendent who is now the district’s equity director.
“I want to empower our kids to share their story, so we can make changes as adults.”
Although Wear said he is “probably the least qualified person” to lead equity work for the district, hiring an equity director was not in the budget this year.
“I have a passion for this work, but I also understand the privilege that comes with being a white male,” he said.
To accommodate Wear’s new role, the associate superintendent’s job was split in two, with another associate superintendent overseeing pre-kindergaten through 4th grade, and Wear overseeing grades 5 through 12.
The district also established the Linn-Mar Equity Advisory Committee, which will meet monthly to discuss equal educational opportunities and equity in school programs, review progress reports regarding equity programs and make recommendations to the school board and administrative cabinet.
Janessa Carr, a student assistance counselor at Linn-Mar High School, is a member of the Equity Advisory Committee and helped students launch the Social Justice Club last year and hold the rally in May.
The club is for any student who has felt marginalized, including students of color, LGBTQ students, and students with disabilities.
“I think I have a moral responsibility to the kids here who no one else speaks up for,” Carr said. “The reality is we have groups of students here who, if we don’t speak up for, are going to fall between the cracks.”
Some of the changes Carr wants to see include restorative justice practices and having a plan for how to handle student complaints about inequity and injustice
Restorative justice empowers students to resolve conflicts with each other by talking, asking questions and airing their grievances. Carr thinks the district needs a restorative justice plan for conflicts between students and staff as well.
“We need to restore that relationship between student and teacher,” Carr said.
According to Linn-Mar’s 2019-20 annual report, the Linn-Mar district is about 80 percent white, 7 percent Asian, 7 percent Black or African American and 3 percent Hispanic or Latino. Almost 2 percent of the students are English Language Learners.
In 2020 at Linn-Mar High, there were 303 discipline incidents for white students, 125 for Black students and 13 for Hispanic students.
Data from 2019 is similar: 317 discipline incidents for white students, 124 for Black students and 18 for Hispanic students.
Student-led equity training for teachers
As a part of diversity, equity and inclusion training for teachers, students led a discussion on their experiences at Linn-Mar High in August before school started.
Indian students spoke about the comments their peers have made about their lunches smelling of curry — a microaggression.
Briana Clymer, 15, a sophomore at Linn-Mar High, spoke about implicit bias. She said she has only had two teachers of color.
It’s important to have teachers from diverse backgrounds, she said, because they have a “different perspective” to offer. It also is important for students of color to see themselves reflected in their teachers.
Ana Clymer, Briana’s mother, is a member of the Linn-Mar Equity Advisory Committee and Marion Alliance for Racial Equity.
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Newsletter
A monthly Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Newsletter also will be published by the district. The first newsletter, published in September, provided “tips for embracing diversity in the classroom” from students:
- Acknowledging different perspectives between the student and teacher.
- Calling out inequitable behaviors or actions instead of staying silent.
- Intervening if a historically marginalized student is being “interrogated” by his or her peers.
House File 802 signed in to law by Gov. Kim Reynolds in June outlines requirements for training on racism, sexism, diversity and inclusion was education training.
“It proved a greater social need that this work is vitally important, and we need to continue to educate our families and teachers about equity and diversity,” Wear said. “It gives schools guidance how to continue their equity and diversity work.
The district is receiving “pushback” from community and staff about the equity work, Wear said.
“I’m not surprised,” he said. “Honestly, when people disagree, it motivates us more. That’s the purpose of education. We’re trying to right some of those wrongs and trying to fix some of that bigotry and hatred that’s out there.
“If we don’t bring this to light, who else will?”
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