By Lisa Young
Decolonizing Delta County School District, a local racial justice group working to promote anti-racism in local schools, is still on the move and making progress according to organizer Marisa Edmondson.
“I guess the biggest news is that the school district released a statement on their website Aug. 21 stating that they are against racism in the schools and are addressing the issues that we brought up in our letter,” she said.
While things have slowed down with the school district dealing with the reopening of schools amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Edmondson said the group is “working on their own” applying for grants and improving their online platform.
“Hopefully this fall we will be able to launch a couple of community based classes, workshops, seminars dealing with race and racism. The meetings which may be webinars due to covid will be open to the community,” said Edmondson.
The grassroots effort is receiving support and mentoring from the Learning Council in Paonia. Edmondson said the two groups share a number of common values making it a natural relationship.
“The Learning Council has been truly incredible with all of this. They’re support has been invaluable especially with working with the school district.”
The next couple of weekends the grass roots organization will be in Paonia promoting racial justice while helping citizens register to vote. They will provide the necessary registration paperwork, stamps, envelopes and computers from 3-7 p.m. the next two Saturdays to help anyone who wishes to register to vote.
“I think encouraging people to vote in the upcoming election is very important to us, to exercise our civic duty. And we will continue to collect signatures and share our letter with people in town who haven’t heard about it.”
Edmondson said they are planning a similar event in Delta but are still working out the details.
In the meantime, Edmondson has been busy creating infographics for the Facebook page and making a number of resource recommendations including books, podcasts, movies to help with community education.
“We’re just trying to start our own educational outreach since we haven’t really gotten to go forward with the district yet. It’s moving really slow with reopening and covid. We may not get anywhere with the curriculum this semester, that’s why we’re applying for outside grants,” Edmondson said, adding she hopes to make progress on the district’s policies in the first semester.
“If you want to create a safe learning environment for all your students, you need to implement a policy that says things like, ‘no you can’t bring a Confederate flag, no you can’t bring a Swastika.’ We’re hoping they will implement that kind of stuff this semester.”
Members of the group recently attended a district policy meeting to discuss the dress code including the banning of all symbols of hate from clothing. They also supplied the district with a draft three tier punishment system for students engaging in racial misconduct and asked for stronger language around racial equity in the district’s goals.
Since meeting with the Delta County School Board on July 16 that brought out over 50 supporters, the group has garnished over 500 signatures in support of its “Open Letter to DCSD” on its Facebook page. The letter boldly calls for the district to take a number of steps to make anti-racism a priority within the district.
In addition to the signatures, the group has 45 testimonials gathered from students, former students and staff members documenting racism at the schools.
The group will meet with district officials Sept. 11 for another policy meeting with the goal of implementing anti-racist policies as soon as possible. More information on Decolonizing Delta County School District can be found on its Facebook page or by email at equity email@example.com.