Diversity and Equity Initiatives at PLSD

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Diversity and Equity in Pickerington Schools

Racial Equity Message from PLSD Leadership Team

June 9, 2020

Dear Pickerington community,

On behalf of Pickerington Schools’ administration, staff, and board of education, we are writing you today to talk about racial equity. In solidarity with African American/black families, educators and community members, we are committed to promoting justice by listening, learning, growing and improving our educational practices to create an environment in which every child knows they have the same opportunity to flourish unhindered by prejudice or bias.

As leaders of the Pickerington Local Schools, we are responsible for ensuring that all of our students and staff feel safe, listened to and valued. As a district, we are committed to promoting a culture of inclusiveness for our nearly 11,000 students. We will continue to work to cultivate a genuinely collaborative and caring approach to engaging our students, staff, and community members in the following ways:

  1. Offering curated resources about race and racial justice for educators to share with their families. It is our hope that these resources will not only provide useful guidance to parents but also give them the confidence to initiate these important conversations with their children.
  2. Continuing to provide ongoing professional development to our staff to ensure they are proactive and prepared to respond appropriately if they hear hateful language.
  3. Regularly surveying students to gauge how they feel about race, diversity and equity in our schools and seek their input on how to improve the climate in each PLSD building.
  4. Create periodic open public forums in which all individuals are encouraged to freely discuss cultural, racial, and ethnicity issues that can provide insight and improve our ability to work together as a community.

While we have been actively involved in advancing diversity and equity issues, we know we are not perfect. We are thankful for the guidance provided by our Diversity Committee, which has helped to propel our district forward since its inception. As we take action in our schools, we ask that you please support our efforts to provide ongoing meaningful dialogue and grow together. We will not give up during challenging times, and will continually strive to be better.

The board of education is undertaking the task of establishing a Citizen’s Advisory Committee. It is our goal to have the committee identified and approved over the summer. This committee will follow the guidelines of policy 9140 “Citizen’s Advisory Committee” in its structure and function. We believe it can be a valuable addition to guide us, and have potential ongoing and lasting benefits to our district.  One task that the committee may be assigned is to perform a review of all of our programs, policies and curriculum to assess how we can improve ourselves, our district and our services to better support parents and children of all races, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds.

This is the moment for everyone to be an ally — the moment for us all to be thoughtful, critical thinkers and problem solvers. Pickerington community, we hear you and value you. We are Pickerington and we are so very #PLSDProud of every single student, individual and family in our community.

Proud to serve as your leadership team,

Dr. Chris Briggs, Superintendent
Ryan Jenkins, Treasurer
Lori Sanders, Board President
Clay Lopez, Board Vice President
Vanessa Niekamp, Board Member
Keith Kristoff, Board Member
Cathy Olshefski, Board Member

Dr. Briggs' Message Regarding Racial Injustice Stories on Social Media

June 25, 2020

Dear Pickerington community,

Pickerington Schools is aware of social media accounts that have been created as spaces for Black, African American, Indigenous and People of Color to share their stories and experiences. These accounts contain stories of racism, micro-aggressions, implicit bias, bullying and the feelings that accompany them. It is painful to read these stories and I am proud of the conviction of each person who has shared their truth! District leaders will continue to read these accounts as we navigate through this learning, reflecting and sharing time together. 

We want to help those that have shared stories pertaining to the district and to bring about change, but we can’t do that if we do not know the origin and trauma that has been endured on an individual basis. If you are a current student, please contact your building principal to begin an investigation. With the anonymity of Instagram accounts, which is where most of the stories have been posted, we can’t investigate, support or assist because we do not know the identity of those posting each situation and story. 

Also, please keep in mind that Pickerington Schools staff are not permitted to discuss the specifics of any individual investigation to comply with FERPA. So, you will not see any individual case claims addressed publicly. 

Accordingly, over the past few weeks, the district has been posting the italicized information below on these story-sharing accounts:

Pickerington Schools is committed to maintaining a learning and work environment that is free of harassment, discrimination or sexual misconduct. We encourage our current and former students, employees and others in the school community who feel they have been aggrieved to seek our help in addressing their complaints and concerns. 

Board Policy 5517 – Anti-Harassment — can be found at this link, under the Policies tab: We encourage those who wish to file a complaint of harassment or discrimination to review this policy to understand your rights, and our investigation procedures. District staff have been reaching out to those that we can identify who have posted stories to discuss their claims. Also, if you believe you have been the victim of a crime, you may consider filing a report with local law enforcement. The Pickerington Police Department can be reached at (614) 575-6911

Pickerington Schools staff are not permitted to discuss the specifics of any individual investigation to comply with FERPA.

Additionally, I hope you have had the opportunity to read my Juneteenth reflection. Our leadership team also shared a racial equity message on June 9. The leadership team’s message is posted on the district’s social media channels and on the “Diversity and Equity in Pickerington Schools” webpage. This webpage provides a summary of PLSD’s diversity and equity initiatives and more, including:

  • a list of curated resources to help educators, families and community members facilitate open discussions about race and racial justice.
  • details on diversity and inclusion trainings for PLSD staff. These trainings are required for each staff member and have been in place for many years.
  • information about a new committee — a Citizen’s Advisory Committee — comprised of (a majority of) community members and charged with creating open public forums to freely discuss cultural, racial, and ethnicity issues that can provide insight and improve our ability to work together as a community.
  • specifics about PLSD’s Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Committee. This committee focuses on internal district matters pertaining to diversity such as recruiting, curriculum staff professional development, and surveys.

It is unacceptable for any person to be treated poorly because of their race, religion, sexual orientation or national origin at Pickerington Schools. District leaders hope to be able to collaborate with members of the community, staff and students in the ways detailed above to continue the dialogue and to work to identify solutions, together. 

Sincerely,

Dr. Chris Briggs
Superintendent

DLC Is Now PLSD P.R.I.D.E.

Part of Pickerington Schools’ mission is to promote an equitable and safe learning environment for students and a welcoming, inclusive working environment for staff of all cultural backgrounds. 

To that end, Pickerington Schools created the Diversity Leadership Committee (DLC) in 2016, which came out of the district’s strategic planning work. The DLC was comprised of 13 members, which included PLSD staff members and a stakeholder from the community. In 202o, the DLC changed its name to PLSD P.R.I.D.E (Promoting Respect, Inclusion, Diversity and Equity), which is comprised of 11 staff members.

PLSD P.R.I.D.E.’s efforts are based on several objectives defined in the Pickerington Schools’ strategic plan:

  • Fostering a positive culture of inclusion in our continued efforts toward retention of a culturally diverse workforce.
  • Recruiting, selecting, and developing a culturally diverse, high-quality staff.
  • Developing a comprehensive curriculum that demonstrates the contributions and appreciation of underrepresented minority cultures across all academic disciplines.
  • Providing ongoing professional development opportunities that address diversity, student achievement, race issues, and cultural competence in a workplace that is free from harassment, abrasive behavior, and bullying.
  • Engaging students and community members in professional activities that will increase experiences and knowledge when interacting with people from a variety of cultural backgrounds.
Citizens Advisory Committee

The board of education is undertaking the task of establishing a Citizen’s Advisory Committee. It is our goal to have the committee identified and approved over the summer. This committee will follow the guidelines of policy 9140 “Citizen’s Advisory Committee” in its structure and function. We believe it can be a valuable addition to guide us, and have potential ongoing and lasting benefits to our district. For your information, policy 9140 is posted below:

9140 – Citizens’ Advisory Committees

The Board of Education may establish citizen advisory committees when there is a definite function to be performed. All appointments of citizens to advisory committees shall be approved by the Board. All appointments of staff members to citizen advisory committees shall be made by the Superintendent. Staff members shall never constitute more than a minority of any such committee. Every effort shall be made to ensure that the makeup of an advisory committee is as truly representative of the community as possible. Board members may be ex-officio members of an advisory committee.

Specific topics for study or well-defined areas of activities shall be assigned in writing to each committee immediately following its appointment. Upon completing its assignment, a committee either shall be given a new problem or shall be dissolved promptly. No advisory committee shall be permitted to continue for prolonged periods without a definite assignment. Each committee shall be instructed as to the length of time each member is asked to serve, the resources the Board intends to provide, the approximate dates on which the Board wishes it to submit reports, and the approximate date on which the Board wishes it to dissolve. Furthermore, the committee shall be instructed as to the relationship it has to the Board, to individual Board members, to the Superintendent, and to the remainder of the professional staff.

The structure and organization of an advisory committee shall be determined by the Board as appropriate to the assignment. Advisory committees shall be encouraged to draw upon a wide variety of resources both inside and outside the School District. Each committee shall be encouraged to draw upon the talents of other local residents and to recommend to the Board the official appointment of any such additional member(s) as the committee may desire.

When a committee is ready to submit a report on its assigned topic, the Superintendent shall arrange a meeting for the purpose of receiving the report.

The Board shall have the sole power to dissolve any of its advisory committees and shall reserve the right to exercise this power at any time during the life of any committee.

Staff Diversity and Inclusion Training

Pickerington Schools employees participate in two diversity and inclusion trainings:

  • Cultural Sensitivity in the Workplace
  • Implicit Bias and Cultural Responsiveness

New staff receive the courses as soon as their emails are set up and existing employees participate in the courses every 3 years.

Curated Resources

PLSD is proud to offer curated resources about race and racial justice for educators and parents to share with their families. It is our hope that these resources will not only provide useful guidance to parents, but will also give them the confidence to initiate these important conversations with their children.

Filing a Harassment or Discrimination Complaint

We encourage those who wish to file a complaint of harassment or discrimination to review Policy 5517 – Anti-Harassment, which can be found on the district’s website. Select the Policies tab, then select the “Students” dropdown and and scroll down to select Policy 5517 or 5517 AG. This policy was adopted by the PLSD Board of Education and reading it will help you understand your rights, our investigation procedures, and the names and contact information for our Anti-Harassment Compliance Officers.

Additionally, our Title IX webpage has more information about non-discrimination on the basis of sex in district programs or activities.

If you believe you have been the victim of a crime, you may consider filing a report with local law enforcement. The Pickerington Police Department can be reached at  (614) 575-6911.

We strongly encourage you to use the above procedures to address these matters.