AUSTIN (KXAN) — A former public school teacher and current Texas lawmaker has introduced a bill that would require a diversity, equity and inclusion officer in all large, urban public school systems.
Rep. James Talarico, author of HB 4111, said this action plan might eliminate hate in schools and prevent a tragedy like the one experienced in Atlanta earlier this week.
“As a former public school teacher, I always think about how our schools can be our first line of defense against radicalization of young boys,” Talarico said. “It’s important to have a district lead who can help a school community incorporate these values of diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the class day.”
Talarico pointed to statewide statistics as proof of its necessity. According to Texas Education Agency demographics from the 2019-20 school year, approximately 73% of all public school students were non-white. More than 50% were Hispanic. Talarico said failing to recognize this diversity is a disservice to each child and who they truly are.
The proposed district officer would develop policies that proactively support cultures, talents, abilities and languages of all varieties — ensuring student success and comfort within school walls.
“We’ve got to get better as educators in learning how to better interact and support students who look different than us and who may come from a different background than we do, and that’s what these positions can help us accomplish,” Talarico said.
Parents like Angela Christy-Androh are welcome to the idea. She has three biracial children of different ages. She says they frequently come home upset after hearing their peers use derogatory and racist remarks against them. Christy-Androh cried as she considered the power of the words used against her children.
“They cut deep, especially with kids,” Christy-Androh said. “I don’t want my kids to be the ones on the news where I come home and find them hanging on a rope. Like my daughter, cutting herself. She could have taken her own life, and she was only 11 or 12 years old.”
She said it’s time for school districts to ensure there are consequences for hate-filled speech against classmates.
“They are kids. This isn’t something that should go on in 2020. You’d think it was done with,” Christy-Androh said. “I had to sit down and have a talk with my kids because of the color of their skin. It’s not okay anymore.”
Some school districts have already adopted diversity, equity and inclusion practices.
For the past eight months, Eanes ISD has worked with a consultant, Dr. Mark Gooden, to identify potential flaws within the district and to make curriculum changes in support of students. Gooden recently shared his progress with the community, revealing he has offered professional development to hundreds of staff members and has met with student-led focus groups. He has been contracted to work through the entire school year.