By Anne Emerson, ABC 4 News
CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCIV) — The CCSD reactivation task force charged with reopening schools said that we face dual crises at the moment, both the pandemic and the call for social justice. Neither can wait for the other to be resolved.
Right now, CCSD says it’s moving forward with training its staff in what it terms “cultural competency.”
It’s part of a larger push to identify and remove an implicit bias from our schools and our children’s education.
In a June 26th interview, CCSD Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait said, “The crises of the past two or three months have simply highlighted or illuminated some fissures, some cracks that have long been in our system.”
Cracks that highlight a deep disparity between the treatment of students.
Charleston Area Justice Ministry found that African-American students are ten times more likely to be suspended and arrested.
Some of this training to challenge these biases has moved online, but it’s moving forward says CCSD’s Chief Financial and Administrative Officer Don Kennedy. He added, “I feel fortunate that the school board put us on this path way before COVID-19.”
But COVID-19 has brought about a new sense of urgency, too.
“The trauma that a lot of our students are experiencing because of the COVID-19 shutdown, (requires that) when they do come back to school, there will be a tremendous effort to engage them,” said Kennedy.
Already, 175 staff members have been trained in the four pillars of the cultural competency; Awareness of one’s own cultural worldview, Attitude towards cultural differences, Knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews, Cross-cultural skills.
Pastor Brian Henderson works with the Charleston Area Justice Ministry. He says the entire CCSD staff will be trained and school materials will also be examined for the same bias.
“The challenges that we had before the pandemic have not gone away, the high suspension rates, the disparities we have to deal with, those things,” he explained.
Henderson says he’s hearing good things about the cultural competency training at CCSD, but the emotional support will be key as well.
“My hunch tells me that we are going to need more people with listening ears, more people with patience, more people with skills that will allow for dialogue first rather than punitive actions.
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