School board will meet with Iowa Freedom Riders to discuss their demands for change in Iowa City schools

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Iowa City Community School District — Adam Burke/Little Village

The Iowa City Community School District Board of Directors will hold a work session on Wednesday with leaders of the Iowa Freedom Riders, dedicated to a discussion of IFR’s demands for changes in Iowa City schools.

Some members of the board have already met with IFR representatives, but during its June 23 meeting, the board decided unanimously to hold a work session so the full board could meet with IFR to discuss the demands.

The group, which organized protests in Iowa City calling for the city to address policing practices and other issues of institutional racism, successfully pushed the Iowa City Council to adopt a 17-point resolution addressing its demands, including changes to the Iowa City Police Department and creating a new plan for affordable housing.

IFR has presented the school board with a detailed list of nine demands.

1. Do you agree to ask each high school principal to collect disaggregated data on the students they recommend attending Tate Alternative School?
a. Provide principals with a list of consequences for the over-identification of
minority students being recommended for Alternative school

2. Do you agree to write a statement in support of the ICCSD school board being composed of members who racially and economically reflect the community?

3. Do you agree to openly support Black administrators in their roles and to discipline all insubordinate staff?

4. Do you agree to update the evaluation process for teachers and administrators to require cultural proficiency as a requirement for keeping their job?

5. Do you agree to create a community-involved taskforce to rewrite the ICCSD discipline protocol so that it is free of language and behaviors that target students of color?
a. This should include:
i. A culturally responsive tier of consequences for students that teachers must follow
ii. A tiered list of consequences that can be recommended to hold schools accountable for the over representation of African Americans receiving office referrals and suspensions.

6. Do you agree to develop a comprehensive policy — that schools are required to follow — detailing the limitation of police in schools?
a. Do you agree to change your discipline protocols to remove the expectation that principals will call the police to address student behaviors?

7. Do you agree to adopt an actively anti-racist prek-K-12 curriculum that demonstrates a well-rounded and complete knowledge of Black history in the U.S.?
a. Do you agree to create a required Black history course for all high school students?

8. Do you agree to empower the district Equity committee to hear complaints of racial bias from students and staff?
a. Do you agree to allow this group to make recommendations to the Board for consequences to founded racial harassment claims?

9. Do you agree to put time stipulations on meeting the goals outlined in the Comprehensive Diversity and Inclusion plan?
a. What progress do you plan to make this year?
b. How will you support (mentally and financially), recruit, and retain teachers, administrators, and school board members of color?

Many of the IFR demands overlap with recommendations for action presented to board last week by the ICCSD Equity Committee.

In a report to the board dated June 21, the committee recommended the board take action to limit police presence in schools by requesting local police departments not routinely patrol school grounds and not have officers come on school grounds “except by request.” The committee also recommended the board create “specific protocols for when it is appropriate for ICCSD teachers or staff to request that law enforcement officers come on school grounds.”

Unlike many school districts, including Cedar Rapids Community Schools, ICCSD does not have police officers assigned to schools as School Resource Officers (SROs), and the committee recommended the current board make it harder for any future board to add SROs by requiring a supermajority vote to do so.

The committee called for the board to prioritize the part of its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Plan that requires “Culturally responsive policies and practices related to student behavior and discipline,” by implementing “discipline protocols that are culturally competent through collaboration with a diverse committee of stakeholders” and “restorative practices district-wide.”

There were also recommendations on curriculum and personnel.

“Remove racist instructional materials currently in the ICCSD classrooms e.g. the 5th-grade social studies textbooks,” the committee listed as an immediate priority. It said the board should add “proactive anti-racist curriculum at all grade levels” and “a robust equity review process to all curriculum reviews.”

The committee said the district should “Begin tracking retention rates of teachers and administrators of color.” Exit interviews should be conducted with teachers and administrators of color to determine if there were cultural issues within the district that made them decided to leave. The committee also recommended a renewed commitment to diversity in hiring in the district.

It further recommended that the board should “Develop a Racial Equity Policy that mirrors the work the district has done with the LGTBQ+ Equity Policy” to be added the existing DEI Plan.

“This is a moment of unprecedented opportunity to move our district forward with a strong collective will,” the committee concluded at the end of its list of recommendations. “We urgently recommend you take bold steps now. Let’s put our values into action for the betterment of the students and staff in our community.”

The school board decided to delay voting on the committee’s recommendation until after the whole board had the opportunity to meet with IFR members to discuss their demands.

The school board work session will begin at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Like all recent board meetings it is being held via Zoom. Information about how to join the Zoom meeting is available on the ICCSD site.

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