WINCHESTER — A book referenced by Frederick County Board of Supervisor member Shawn Graber during a town hall meeting on Saturday is one of the resources that Frederick County Public Schools utilizes as part of its equity training for staff, but it is not used by students in their classes, a school division official said on Monday.
Graber, who represents the Back Creek District, hosted the town hall. A variety of subjects were discussed during the nearly three-hour meeting, including the school division's equity program, of which Graber has been critical.
At Saturday's meeting Graber read aloud from "The Deep Equity Process" by Gary R. Howard. A passage he cited said some white people are bound by fundamentalist white orientation. “They view the world through a single lens that is always right and always white. White supremacist hate groups represent one particularly hostile form of fundamentalist white identity, but there is also the Tea Party version that masks its racism with the guise of patriotism.”
Graber asked the approximately 50 people in attendance if they want their tax dollars spent on Deep Equity in the schools. At least one person said yes, while others said no.
On Monday, in response to a question from The Star about how or if the school division uses the book, school division Coordinator of Policy and Communications Steve Edwards responded that the division utilizes a number of resources for its equity work including the Virginia Department of Education’s EdEquity VA, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), the Virginia Tiered Systems of Support (VTSS) and the Deep Equity Program — a professional development program from the California-based Corwin company.
According to Corwin's website, Deep Equity helps school divisions establish the climate, protocols, common language, and common goal of implementing culturally responsive teaching practices. The program seeks to reduce and eliminate achievement gaps, disparities in graduation rates, disproportionate suspension, expulsion and disciplinary referral rates.
Graber on Saturday called the Deep Equity Program "Marxism and communism." He said people should be guaranteed the same opportunities, not the same outcome.
As part of Edwards' response to The Star, he said the goal of the division's equity program is "to grow cultural and social empathy within the school division and to ensure all students have access to rigorous learning experiences." He further explained that the division's equity work is focused on creating a culturally responsive learning environment as opposed to implementing a specific program.
Implementation of the program began during the 2018-19 school year and continued during the 2019-20 school year, Edwards said, but the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the division pausing its equity training for staff last spring.
“Each of our schools has an equity team which includes staff members who have received equity training,” Edwards wrote in an email. “In addition, select students from each of our middle and high schools (about 110 students total) were part of our Youth Equity Stewardship or YES program last year. These students were invited to participate in the YES program and elected to do so. They are utilized at their respective schools as part of the team implementing our equity program with a goal of growing cultural and social empathy and ensuring all students have what they need in order to have the opportunity to succeed.”
Edwards said the school division remains committed to its equity program and providing all students with what they need to be successful. He said providing mobile hotspots to families without reliable internet connections and offering school meals to all students, including those engaged in distance learning, are examples of the program in action during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, he said each of the school equity teams are continuing their work within their respective buildings.
“Again, that work is focused on providing all students with what they need in order to be successful,” Edwards said.
The school division’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes $125,000 for an equity and diversity coordinator.
Edwards said more information on the division's equity program can be viewed on the FCPS YouTube Channel at https://youtu.be/u0S9csNJ_7k