St. Charles School District to pause Deep Equity training until after equity audit is done

St. Charles School Board District 303

St. Charles School District 303 will pause its Deep Equity training until after an equity audit is completed.

In March, board members voted 4-3 to use Deep Equity — a professional development program from the California-based Corwin company – to provide professional learning to staff on diversity, equity and inclusion. Following three hours of comments from both proponents and opponents of the Deep Equity program, St. Charles School Board members on Monday voted 7-0 to pause the agreement, with no penalty being incurred. They also decided that using different materials, the district will continue the training after completing an equity audit.

St. Charles parent Mitch Bridges spoke against the Deep Equity program.

“Any company that buckets children and teachers into groups of oppressed and oppressors based on the color of their skin is wrong and quite frankly, it’s racist,” Bridges said, in addressing School Board members. “Cancel the contract with Deep Equity. Do an equity audit. Handle any equity issues on an individual basis and keep race out of it.”

He also presented a petition with 619 signatures calling for the contract to be canceled.

St. Charles North High School student TJ Pinex spoke in support of the Deep Equity program.

“I feel that Deep Equity or a program like Deep Equity such as National Equity Project or Education Advisory Board, puts us in position to be ahead of the curve when it comes to leading the way for culturally responsive teaching,” Pinex said.

During the meeting, a few board members noted that the training was being tailored to the district, with cultural responsiveness being emphasized rather than social dominance and social justice. School Board member Kate Bell said the school district’s administration should have done a better job in communicating that.

“Critical race theory is not being taught to our senior leadership team,” Bell said. “That should have been communicated. We have to communicate to our community.”

School Board President Jillian Barker, who had voted to use the Deep Equity program, said the district needs equity training.

“Despite all the good intentions, inequity lives in good schools,” Barker said. “It just does.”

Barker said what the board agreed to on Monday was “acceptable.”

“It’s an acceptable motion,” she said. “We’re moving forward still. We are getting the audit. We’re learning a little bit more about what we know.”

The goals of the district’s partnership with Deep Equity are to ensure all students, across all subgroups, achieve at high levels and to eliminate educational barriers and disparities. Other goals are to create a climate of inclusion, where all students and families feel welcomed and valued and to eliminate instances of discrimination related to differences in race, gender identify, sexual orientation, immigration status, language proficiency and religion.