Elmbrook Schools plans to introduce curriculum that “decenters whiteness”; Board of Education threatens parent with law enforcement
Elmbrook Schools has a document on its website titled “District Strategy 2021-2022.” An objective in the document is to “ensure equitable opportunities for all students.” The school district stated that a goal was to “fully implement a revised K-12 Social Studies curriculum by September 2022, ensuring it represents a world view and provides students the knowledge and skills necessary to thrive in an American democracy and in a global world.”
The school district previously had a “Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Workgroup” that was created in February 2020. The goal of the workgroup was to draft recommendations for the Board of Education to push for “fostering an environment that provides equitable access and inclusion so that all students, regardless of race, disability, socio-economic status, gender, and English proficiency, so they can fully participate in our schools, classrooms, programs, and activities.” The school district states that the workgroup “consisted of 52 staff, alumni, parents, board members, and administrators, and met six times over the course of 11 months.”
This workgroup helped produce the school district’s “Equity Principles.” The school district explains on the “Equity Principles” document that the purpose of the principles is to “eliminate opportunity gaps based on student and family identities and their intersectionality such as, but not limited to, race, color, creed, national origin, citizenship status, ancestry, religion, sexual and gender identity, economic status, linguistics, age, and physical, mental, emotional, learning disability status so that all students thrive.” The document then lists the principles and what they mean:
- Identity Work: Staff explore their own unique background, experience and biases, in order to understand and connect with others in our community beyond.
- Responsibility: We are responsible for creating a school system that maximizes the potential of every student and removes barriers to teaching and learning.
- Collaboration: We expect all educators to actively participate in Professional Learning Community Co-plan/Co-serve/Co-learn Teams (PLC-C3) in order to develop each other’s capacity and meet the needs of all learners.
- Curriculum and Instruction: We adopt curriculum and design instruction, feedback and assessments in order to proactively affirm and engage each learner based on their unique backgrounds and experiences.
- Alignment: We align all District policies, procedures, resource allocations and continuous improvement in support of these Equity Principles to achieve our mission.
- Diversity of Workforce: We recruit, hire, and retain a talented and diverse workforce through a comprehensive plan.
The document also praised the school district’s accomplishments so far to achieve equity. One achievement was that the “proposed Social Studies Curriculum will present an expanded world view and will be reviewed by the Board in July, with the possible addition of AP World History in 2022.” The document also explained the training that teachers were required to take:
- Identity Work (2018-2020): All Teachers completed 2-4 hours of training to understand one’s own identities and biases.
- Identity Work (2020): Added required staff training modules on Cultural Competence and Diversity Awareness to Safeschools Learning Platform.
- Collaboration (By September 2022): Train all educators on effective Professional Learning Community Co-Plan/Co-Serve/Co-Learn Teams.
The document states that the school district also intends to “update the District’s Recruitment and Retention Plan to advance the District’s Equity Principles throughout the organization.” The school district also intends to “partner with our school and district parent groups to provide opportunities for families to learn about opportunity gaps and help address inequities (e.g. EEF Elmbrook Connect Initiative).”
In one of the workgroup’s documents, the workgroup specifically states that “equity does not mean equal.” The document explains that the school district should work to eliminate “whiteness” from the curriculum taught to students. The document states: “Elmbrook Schools is responsible for creating a system where success for ALL students is accessible through a representative and inclusive curriculum that decenters whiteness and prioritizes marginalized communities in all subjects.”
The document also states that the school district “will adjust curricula across all subjects to ensure representative anti-racist history of all marginalized groups (including culturally relevant pedagogy).” The document further explains that students should be “affirmed and engaged by multiple perspectives through anti-racist, Identity Relevant Teaching & Learning (IRTL).”
The workgroup also has a presentation with one slide labeled “Identity Reflection of Self” with categories including “race,” “gender,” “sexual identity,” and “gender identity.” The presentation also provides three “Components of Equity.” These components include:
- Distinguishing equity (fairness or justice) and equality (sameness).
- Identifying and eliminating racism, sexism, heterosexism, transphobia, ableism, and other forms of bias and discrimination.
- Fairly distributing access, opportunity, and participation.
In the agenda items of the Board of Education meeting on December 8, 2020, the Board stated that the district formed a “workgroup equity opportunity nonnegotiable facilitated by Integrated Comprehensive Systems for Equity (ICS Equity).” Goals included to “operationalize equity for the District,” “guide all decisions forward,” and “create sustainability of equity.” The workgroup met four times to create “Equity Non Negotiables” that eventually became the “Equity Principles.” The topics of the four sessions included:
- Introduction to Integrated Comprehensive Systems for Equity (ICS), Historical Practices of Marginalization & Identity Work
- ICS Four Cornerstones & Intro to Collaborative (C3) Proactive Structure with Identify Relevant Teaching and Learning (IRTL)
- Hattie’s Research & Thoughts/Reflections on Non Negotiables Exemplars
- Group Work Time to Draft Non Negotiables & Share-Out
The school district’s website states that the district has not worked with ICS since May 1, 2021. However, the school district explains that it worked with the organization to “perform Equity Audits and professional development for staff designed to have teachers reflect on their own identities and belonging in order to meet the needs of all learners.”
The school district’s website has a page explaining the role of the district’s social worker. One role is to provide “programs and services to meet the needs of specific populations: homeless/mobile students, school age parents, English as a Second Language (ESL) students and families, students of color and their families, lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-questioning (LGBTQ+) students, etc.”
On March 8, 2022, a resident of the school district spoke at a Board of Education meeting and confronted the board members after a teacher at Wisconsin Hills Middle School reportedly played inappropriate music with profanities to a sixth grade class that included the resident’s daughter. When speaking to the board members, he reportedly quoted profanities from the music that the teacher played. [Time Stamp: 48:45]
On March 10, 2022, the Board of Education sent the resident a letter because he “used multiple profanities directed at the Board.” The letter continued to state that his comments were “disrespectful and disruptive to the members of the public who were attending the meeting.” The Board of Education then appeared to threaten the resident with law enforcement:
This letter serves as a warning that any future violations of expected rules of decorum during public comment periods, including but not limited using profanities, may result in limitations to your ability to participate in public comment or other consequences such as referral to law enforcement for disorderly conduct and other recourse as determined appropriate.