District responds to calls for equity

On+June+8%2C+2020%2C+a+Black+Lives+Matter+protest%2C+organized+by+members+of+The+Acorn+Collective%2C+was+held+in+Northbrook.+The+collective+is+working+towards+improving+racial+equity+at+GBN+and+GBS.+Photo+by+Natalie+Sandlow

On June 8, 2020, a Black Lives Matter protest, organized by members of The Acorn Collective, was held in Northbrook. The collective is working towards improving racial equity at GBN and GBS. Photo by Natalie Sandlow

Rachel Katz and Jenna Amusin

Feeling disappointed by the way some members of the Northbrook and Glenview communities acted in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, Glenbrook North Alumna Yasmine Ramachandra (‘15) was compelled to act. Joining with Alumna Maria Kahn (‘15), the two cofounded The Acorn Collective, a group of Black, Indigenous and people of color, also known as BIPOC, and white ally Glenbrook students and alumni who are working to address the injustices they see in multiple institutions within Northbrook and Glenview.

In the past months, the collective created two petitions directed towards Glenbrook High School District #225. The first petition called for the schools to implement various initiatives that would increase diversity and equity at both GBN and Glenbrook South. 

The collective’s second petition, which was addressed to the Glenbrook High School District #225 Board of Education, called for the district to remove student resource officers, also known as SROs, from both high schools. The petition also called for the district to invest in trained advocates for students in replacement of SROs. 

Ramachandra said in a video conference that GBN Principal Jason Markey and GBS Principal Lauren Fagel reached out to her and Kahn in response to seeing the first petition, and have since had monthly Zoom meetings with collective members. 

Markey said in a video conference that he feels the conversations with collective members help add to his perspective and understanding of others’ experiences.

“We definitely want to hear from [the collective at meetings], what their members are talking about and any concerns that are out there, and then Dr. Fagel and I can help give a little bit of perspective from our side,” Markey said.

Discussions in the meetings have addressed specific requests from the collective, such as working with a third party equity consultant to conduct an equity assessment, Markey said.

Fagel said in a video conference that GBS has been working with an equity consultant for the past three years to increase diverse hiring practices, examine the fairness of placement practices and establish more professional learning opportunities about equity for staff. 

GBN recently partnered with a consultant to conduct an equity assessment that is planned to occur over the next 12 months.

According to Markey, prior to receiving the collective’s first petition, GBN staff and administrators decided the school would hold an equity assessment. The collective’s request for one reaffirmed the decision. The assessment is planned to examine various aspects of equity within the school. 

The assessment is planned to begin with an equity leadership team of staff members who will take an independent self-reflective survey regarding equity within GBN. The consultant also plans to meet with a series of smaller focus groups consisting of parents, students, alumni and staff. Additionally, a group comprised of the consultant, administrators and certified and non-certified staff members plans to draft an equity statement, similar to a mission statement, and discuss actions to take for future equity work at GBN.

According to Fagel, multiple discussions have taken place during the monthly meetings with collective members about the second petition regarding SROs. 

“I understand that as a white person, the presence of a police officer sends a very different message and makes me feel very differently than it might make a Black or Brown student feel.

“At the same time, as a principal, I have safety on my mind all the time and especially when we’re in normal times, you know, we do a lot to prevent the worst case scenario like an active assailant or a school shooter,” Fagel said.

According to Markey, he has also had conversations with Fagel and GBN’s building administrative team about the collective’s second petition.

No actions have been or will be taken this year to remove SROs from either school, but it is important to continually review what types of resources are available to students for reporting traumatic or highly personal events, Markey said. 

According to Ramachandra, the communication between both of the principals with one another and with members of the collective has helped foster productive conversations. 

“From my impression of both the principals, they really do genuinely care about their students in the same way that we care about the students’ well-being,” Ramachandra said.