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Equity audit shows racial disparities within Lansing School District

Posted at 8:10 PM, Mar 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-24 20:10:30-04

LANSING, Mich. — The Lansing School District is evaluating key findings from an equity audit that found evidence of racial inequality in the district.

“Every community member shouldn’t be concerned about their child’s experiencing the continuation of racism while they’re in school,” said school board member Rachel Willis.

The push for a district wide equity audit started in 2020 in response to social unrest stemming from the death of George Floyd. Now after nearly two years it’s complete.

“It took us a lot of meetings, data collection, focus groups, surveys and feedback reports to get us the product that we have now,” Willis said.

The audit was conducted by the research company WestEd and it highlighted racial disparities in the district.

For example, one key finding showed that Black and minority students are presented with fewer opportunities than their white peers.

“What is something we can do about this? Develop tangible strategies or eliminate some strategies or policies that were causing disproportionate outcomes with our students,” Willis said.

The audit also showed that Black and minority students are two times as likely to be suspended as white students.

“What we dove into was there was more subjectivity around the reason why minority students were being suspended,” Willis said. “So we need to look into what is the underlying bias that’s causing these subjective suspensions to disproportionately target minority students.”

One of the key findings in the audit was that Black male students are treated differently because of implicit bias.

"I’m married to a Black man. I have a Black dad. I have a Black brother, and there’s experiences that I know they have experienced being and person of color,” Willis said. “So it’s incredibly concerning for me to be aware of that data point, but I am also encouraged that we are calling it out.”

The audit also found that minority teachers in the district feel pressured to teach about racism because their white colleagues won’t.

“That action of constantly having to disrupt or speak on racism is extremely taxing on Black people and I think it’s time we look at how do we bring everyone to the table and everyone have a responsibility for disrupting these issues,” Willis said.

The Lansing School District is evaluating the audit's findings and we’re told they’ll soon be releasing a plan for how to reduce racial disparities.

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