Meet People Where They Are to Achieve Understanding
The HISD board operates under a principle of equity, and that principle is making undoing the underlying tensions plaguing the district. Equity is not equality, and the difference between the two is an important distinction. All students should have equality of opportunity; however, that is different than equity. Equity is a legal principle that basically boils down to fairness. The inclusion of the added element of fairness heightens the feeling of discontent when an individual feels wronged. What's worse than being wronged? Being wronged and also feeling that the wrong is fundamentally unfair.
Many of the board members talk about wrap around services, and that fills a need, but does not directly address the underlying tensions based upon a feeling of inequitable treatment. Listening sessions also serve a function, but they, too, do not address the issues that arise from operating from an equity basis. If anything they make the problem worse because they heighten the feeling of unfairness that arises since the perceived unfairness will occur after the listening session has occurred and it becomes a rejection of the information presented in the listening session.
Both sides of the "black-brown divide" feel wronged, and feel that the wrong is unjustified since the wrong is from a lack of equitable treatment. The feeling of inequitable treatment makes unwinding the tensions an extra difficult proposition. Starting to unwind this ongoing problem is going to require meeting people where they are regardless of the truth of the matter asserted. While there is only one truth, everyone has their own take on the truth, and to make progress we have to start from a position of working form a person's truth to the actual truth.
Since wrap around services and listening sessions will not address the underlying tensions we have to look at a different solution. Two areas of opportunity are present to start addressing the underlying tensions in the district. The first is making the objective data easily accessed and readily explained to everyone. The 1,080+ page report regarding reading mastery/deficiency is great for policy wonks, but beyond the time most parents will be able to spend understanding the state of the district as a whole. A parent is rightly concerned about the opportunities afforded to their child. We need to distill the information to where the parents can understand why decisions are made and how they impact their children.
The second opportunity is having video available in all classrooms, and body cameras on all law enforcement that are on property. One thing I hear over and over on the campaign is a large portion of the community believes they are being targeted because of race. If this is true, it must stop, and corrective action taken to ensure no one is ever targeted because of race. However, if this is perception, but not supported by the realities present then we need to present evidence to concerned parents about what is actually occurring. Cameras in all classrooms and on law enforcement provides information about what is happening. People are on better behavior if they know they are being recorded. Having video and audio recording of the classrooms and law enforcement allows everyone to see what occurred if there is an incident. It serves to protect all - teachers, students, and law enforcement.
Wrap around services are important, but they meet different needs than the underlying problems that are present in the district. The board's commitment to equity has only served to heighten the discontent because they add a cry of unfair in addition to the perceived wrong. To begin remedying this situation we need to meet people where they are and work from there. When elected, I will make a point to have the district distill information into easy to understand presentations and explain why decisions are being made. I will also push for video and audio recording in the classrooms and body cameras for law enforcement so that when an incident occurs everyone can see what happened. We need to be intentional in our actions to regain the trust of the community, and that's an effort I will push for.
Thank you for reading, and thank you for your support.