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IPS Board Approves Racial Equity Policy and Black Lives Matter Resolution

The Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) Board of School Commissioners approved a new policy to address the district’s ongoing efforts to curtail racism and biases, and their negative effects on students, parents and staff. 

During Thursday’s Board Action Session, the Board approved the Racial Equity Mindset, Commitment & Action policy, which focuses exclusively on the elimination of policies, practices, attitudes and cultural messages that reinforce differential outcomes or fail to eliminate them.

“IPS has reached a major milestone in the history of our district, and it has been a long time coming. We are now on a journey toward authentic racial equity,” said Dr. Patricia Payne, director of the IPS Racial Equity Office. “This will require major shifts in knowledge, attitudes, mindsets, belief systems and practices. We will know this has been achieved when student outcomes can no longer be predicted by race or ethnicity.”

Through the racial equity policy, along with the district-led racial equity initiative, IPS will implement several measures, including:

  • Creating the infrastructure for all IPS staff members to have access to robust professional learning experiences around racial equity. 
  • Activating and responding accordingly to support the district’s most vulnerable communities, especially in the event of an unprecedented crisis (e.g., a global pandemic). 
  • Intentionally ensuring that all students have access to high-quality, culturally relevant curriculums and instructional materials. 

In addition to the racial equity policy, the Board also approved the Black Lives Matter resolution. The resolution details not only the city, state and country’s history of systemic racism, but also the pervasive remnants of racial exclusion and the barriers to universal success. The resolution underscores the policy’s intentional efforts to support legislation, advocacy and the culture of diversity throughout the district, including the targeted training and hiring of teachers and staff of color, and the restructuring of the IPS Police Department.

“The commitment of the Board and district leadership to further refine our ability to level the playing field for all students, regardless of race or ethnicity, is profound,” said Aleesia Johnson, IPS superintendent. “All of our 31,000 students deserve the best instructors, classroom environments, curriculum and technology to reach their full potential now and in the future.”

These and other measures outlined in the policy and resolution aim to improve the ability of students to excel in every classroom, in every school across the district.

  • To read the full Racial Equity Mindset, Commitment & Action policy, click here
  • To read the Black Lives Matter resolution, click here

The racial equity policy speaks to the history of racism and segregation throughout the educational framework in the city and state, including hiring practices and budgets. The foundation of IPS’ history is rooted — like many school districts throughout the country — in the segregationist policies set forth by civic organizations like the White Supremacy League, White People’s Protective League and the Capital Avenue Protective Association as early as 1920. The Black population during this formative decade grew to more than 11% of the city’s total — one of the highest Black populations of northern cities.

City leaders, however, fearing the high numbers of Black students in predominantly white high schools, created a school for Blacks in 1922: Crispus Attucks High School. Leaders forced all Black students to attend the school based on the supposed spread of tuberculosis infections in the Black community. The Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, the IPS Board, and the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), supported the decision and suppressed and diverted any protests to oppose segregation. Ultimately, the then governor of Indiana, mayor of Indianapolis and five members of the school Board became either members of or were backed by the KKK.

It wasn’t until the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, the subsequent U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit in 1968, and a federal court ruling in 1971 ordering a supervised busing program that ultimately facilitated the phasing out of the district’s desegregation efforts. Tangible remnants remained until 2016.

Because of the aforementioned facts, coupled with academic barriers, and housing and economic inequalities, the school Board and district leadership agreed that the deliberate actions to keep Black and Brown students and their families at a disadvantage for decades, still reverberate in today’s communities of color. 

For more information about the history of racial equity in IPS, please watch the abbreviated WFYI feature here.