IPS has made racial equity a priority over the past several years, and among the biggest steps the district has taken is in establishing its Racial Equity Training program at Crispus Attucks High School.
Aimed at educating IPS faculty and staff members across the district, the program runs over two days at the Racial Equity Training Center on the Crispus Attucks campus. The training is designed to foster a collaborative community to improve outcomes for students by eliminating racial disproportionality and disparity.
The training begins with a tour of the Crispus Attucks Museum, then moves to instructor-led training that includes workbooks, discussions and handouts. The training covers the history of racism, how it is institutionalized and normalized, how to combat it, and, finally, reinforcement strategies. Instructors rotate, and always include a diverse racial makeup.
Dr. Patricia Payne is director of the Racial Equity Office at IPS and has been a central part of district race relations for decades. She has been the head of multicultural education for many years but wanted to do something to change people’s belief system.
“Racism is the bookends for all the other -isms in place in the world,” she said. “Our vision is an IPS community where student outcomes cannot be predicted by race or ethnicity.”
At its outset, RacialEquity Training was offered to principals across the district on a voluntary basis, offering “Equity School” status to schools whose staff completed the training.
But as the program grew and its benefits became evident, it was clear that expansion was going to have a positive effect. Today, all new teachers are required to take the training, with a goal of mandating it for all staff members for every IPS school. Today hopes are high that the training will become a regular part of new employee’s training program.
The training is facilitated by the Racial Equity Institute, an alliance of trainers, organizers and institutional leaders devoted to creating racially equitable organizations. The group works to train businesses and organizations to encourage fair, equal treatment of students regardless of race, and bring to light racial inequities.
In all, more than 3,000 IPS staff members have participated in the training, and all new-hire teachers must complete it as part of onboarding.
The program has been so successful that the district has welcomed outside groups to train their staff. Indianapolis-area organizations Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Indianapolis Public Library, Marian University, Noblesville Schools, Perry Meridian High School, Marian University Indianapolis Teaching Fellows, Park Tudor, The Oaks Academy, Community Hospital East, Ivy Tech Community College, and Butler University have all taken advantage of the training.
Noblesville Schools Superintendent Beth Niedermeyer called the training “incredibly valuable” to their school district.
“We are better equipped to lead equity and inclusion conversations, and we are committed to send more of our staff,” she said. “This helps us to better understand the history of racism so we can work collaboratively for change.”
Beth Perdue Outland, vice president of Community Engagement & Strategic Innovation at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, hails the role Racial Equity Training has had for them.
“Seeing our city’s largest school corporation committing their energy resources to this also creates a context for employees about what’s important in our community,” she said.
Key to the success is the requirement that people complete the entire training. Dr. Payne insists that the entire program is vital.
“If a staff member is supposed to be here at nine, and they come wandering in at 10, we send them right back,” Dr. Payne said.
Dr. Payne said the training is eye-opening for those who attend. Besides challenging beliefs and showing in detail how concepts like institutional racism work, attendees learn about the history of their own communities, and how racism has and continues to impact them.
“We want people to know the history of the community where their school fits,” she said. “That’s the community where black businesses, at one point,
flourished on Indiana Avenue and Martindale Brightwood, and what happened to them.”
And almost invariably, people learn a great deal of information they’d never heard and hear alarming perspectives that help shape their attitude in positive ways.
“You should see some of the reactions to the information that they are hearing,” Dr. Payne said. “People get really angry, wondering why they never learned this in school.”
Dr. Payne said the district is committed to real change with the training program, and the program is expanding in coming years.
“It is not just paying lip service,” she said. “This is very, very important. I tell people this is not a moment, it’s a movement.”