- Anne Arundel County Public Schools
- April 27, 2018
Our Say: Anne Arundel School Board Nominee Josie Urrea Makes Good Points on Schools, Racism
Posted by CAPITAL GAZETTE on 4/25/2018
The Anne Arundel County Board of Education has long stood out from other school boards statewide by having a voting student member who serves a one-year term. This was done to make sure school officials hear student views before they make decisions on key issues.
Even before receiving her formal appointment from Gov. Larry Hogan, student board member-elect Josie Urrea has started doing that job — and on one of the most difficult issues facing the school system. We hope officials are listening to her.
Recent incidents ranging from fights to graffiti to social media threats to the flying of a Confederate flag have focused attention on what the schools have been doing to combat the persistence of racism — which, the county branch of the NAACP maintains, has for decades created a hostile, threatening atmosphere for minority students.
Schools Superintendent George Arlotto, his staff and the school board can’t be accused of ignoring the issue. The system has an Equity Advisory Committee that meets monthly. It offers diversity training. The Be Nice campaign — an attempt to inspire students, faculty and staff to foster kindness in the classroom — was launched in December 2016. The #Room203 challenge encourages principals and teachers to create an environment that values the differences among students.
But all of this, Urrea told the board recently, is failing to actually reach students. “Posters, hashtags, logos and (advisory) lessons are as effective as tweeting your thoughts and prayers,” she said.
Urrea, the president of the Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils, proposes taking the anti-drug Not My Child program as a model and having victims of bias visit the schools to tell their stories. “I need something real, raw and emotional that engages us,” she said.
Schools system spokesman Bob Mosier said Arlotto has had meetings on what a Not My Child-type initiative on racism would be like. He’ll be taking up the subject of school system programs on diversity and inclusion at the board’s next meeting.
Urrea also suggested the school system review its disciplinary policies — given recent events, a sound idea. And she pointed out that teachers discussing diversity often use the word “tolerance,” when a better one might be “celebration.” Why not? Diversity is not something that’s there to be politely endured; it’s one of the major sources of this nation’s strength.
Urrea told the board she wants editorials in The Capital next year to be about “how proud we are as a school system to overcome these obstacles and grow as a community.” Now there’s an editorial we would be delighted to publish. If the school system and the larger community listen to enough voices like Urrea’s and then take action, perhaps we’ll all get to that point.