LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. — In the end, the Lee's Summit R-7 School Board approved equity training for the district Wednesday on a 6-1 vote, but the landslide margin belies the long struggle Superintendent Dr. Dennis Carpenter faced during the last year.
Lee's Summit schools trumpeted the passage of the LSR7 Equity Plan after a late February board meeting.
The plan got put on hold after some parents in the district complained. The plan even was the subject of an emergency board meeting last month.
Despite the pushback, Carpenter struck a positive note after the board finally voted to move forward with the plan.
"We have a great school district, and that's probably one of the reasons it took so long," Carpenter said.
Dr. Judy Hedrick, who was the lone dissenter, explained that she voted no, "because I think we need to include all of our students."
After the board's decision, Educational Equity Consultants will host training for the leadership team, school board, faculty and students over three years.
"This is the day that the community celebrates and I know Kansas City has had a long history of celebrating Juneteenth in the city," board member Jackie Clark said. "That's why it's so important. I've had several folks that I've talked to today, my friends, that said this is really significant to them."
Educational Equity's proposal includes the creation of a culturally responsive master plan and supporting curriculum to encourage an inclusive environment for all students.
"I've never felt that a teacher was doing something intentional or responding in a way that they thought would compound the harm in the situation." Lee's Summit parent Laurie Betz said. "It's just that I'm not sure that teachers know the best way to respond. Since I've had both experiences, my honest opinion is that (some kids) are treated differently. My white daughter is treated differently than my black daughter."
Several parents 41 Action News spoke with support of the plan, but say this is only the beginning. It's not meant to be accusatory, but rather educational.
"We are not saying that these teachers are racist or that the administrators are racist but we just want everyone to understand that we all have some level of implicit bias," Lee's Summit parent Courtney Ray said. "How can I tackle that in myself and then once I learn these things about me, how can I better support the kids in my class?"
Educational Equity will begin its training later this summer or early this fall.
"I think that's where the public and our parents got so infuriated in this whole discussion was these things happen every day and we just dealt with them and dealt with them at home and knew there might be issues" Lee's Summit parent Daphne Means said. "When the community started pushing back and saying no we don't have a race issue, these things don't happen, that's when I think all the emotion came out of us and I felt like, 'No, I've got these six examples.'"