Diversity, Belonging, Equity and Inclusion in Chelsea schools

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Marcus Kaemming, CSD Assistant Superintendent, (far right) speaks to the school board subcommittee on Aug. 9, about DBEI efforts. photo by Lonnie Huhman

The words Diversity, Belonging, Equity and Inclusion are important in the Chelsea School District.

Over the past year and even before that, the district has been putting in the time and effort to make sure all students feel properly supported. 

These words, otherwise known as DBEI, help define this effort.

To help keep the community updated on this work, a school board subcommittee meeting was held on Aug. 9, to give an update on the DBEI effort.

This meeting had a few school board members present along with staff and around 50 community members in attendance.

In the presentation at the meeting, DBEI was defined as:

Diversity - Variety of people, attributes, identities, and ideas.

Belonging - Everyone is given an opportunity to feel and find belonging in group activities, curriculum, etc. There is a “home” for every student when they are at school.

Equity - Everyone has access to the resources they need to learn and thrive.

Inclusion - All people feel respected, heard, valued and understood.

The Sun Times News (STN) followed up with the school district about the meeting.

Marcus Kaemming, CSD Assistant Superintendent, said the goal of the meeting was to respond to the community's questions about the DBEI work the district is engaging in.

In answering the question, what should the community know about DBEI, Kaemming said, “This work, equity and inclusion, has existed in our district for many years. In the past year, multiple communications and updates were sent to the community and Board. The main purpose of this work is to ensure that all students belong when they participate with our school.”

A part of this work is taking a deeper look at equity with the goal of providing the right kind of access to everyone.

Giving students opportunities to express themselves and have a voice is a big part of this. During the 2020-21 school year, the district provided three opportunities for current and former students to share their voices in front of the Equity and Social Justice Coalition members.

The “My Story” project was also provided to middle and high school students as a platform for sharing their stories.

CSD staff said all of these opportunities have been completely optional.

According to the DBEI presentation, what came from these opportunities were requests from the students. 

They are asking from the district for: restorative justice and transparency; tools for navigating the future; more representation of all backgrounds, identities, ability levels, etc., in the buildings, books, curriculum, and in general; opportunities to practice civil discourse; groups and clubs where they can be themselves and engage in meaningful conversations, and clear guidelines for reporting incidents.

The DBEI work is also about making sure staff has the opportunities for helpful professional development and making sure the community is informed.

One thing that came out of the subcommittee meeting, during public comment, was some concerns about different books/links recommended on the DBEI website. Kaemming said they are currently reviewing all links and will communicate with the appropriate stakeholders once this review is completed.

As for the coming school year, the DBEI group will continue to support all students in the district.

Kaemming said there is no change in the path by which they are supporting an inclusive environment where all students belong.

“We continue to stress that this work is about belonging and is not only about one topic,” he said. “It's about making sure we are providing fair and equitable access to learning for all students.”

With this, the district says it is committed to serving all kids:

· providing tools to prepare students to live in a diverse world

· ensuring every student is treated equitably

· making sure the schools are safe places where no one is bullied because of who they are

· empowering all students to take action to make the world a better place

· making sure all students see themselves and people like them reflected in what they learn at school and helping students learn about all kinds of people so that they can work and build connections with people from all over the world

It was also emphasized what they are not. 

Administration said the district is not “indoctrinating” students and staff, and/or teaching Critical Race Theory, or making students and staff feel bad for being who they are. Rather, they said the district is providing information for students and staff to be aware of their statements and the impacts on the school community. 

They also said staff are not sharing personal political views to influence a student’s opinion.

After the meeting, CSD Superintendent Julie Helber told STN, “The Chelsea School District strives to ensure that all of our students feel a sense of belonging, see themselves in our curriculum, and know they are loved.”

To learn more and to see the entire presentation, go to https://www.chelsea.k12.mi.us/diversity-equity-inclusion.

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