Recent protests against racism and police brutality are prompting more people to talk about racial justice and equity, and advocates say those efforts have to include teachers in Indiana.
According to state data, white students make up just 67 percent of student enrollment in Indiana, but 93 percent of teachers are white.
Patricia Payne is the director of racial equity for Indianapolis Public Schools. She says educators have to be comfortable talking about race, especially in communities that are mostly white, because teaching people about the world and different perspectives is their job.
“Right now, we’re talking about racism. So teachers have to know the truth in order to be able to teach the truth,” she says.
Payne says teachers should look for trusted resources to help them stay informed, and that schools should offer more professional development trainings focused on racism and equity.
And the potential impact it could have on communities is significant. Data shows disparities between racial groups in several areas tied to education: discipline, education opportunity, and test scores, among others.
Anthony Dean is a special education teacher in Washington Township, and sits on the minority affairs committee for the Indiana State Teachers Association. The union hosted a webinar this week for members to ask questions and learn about advocacy for racial justice in schools.
He says teachers and students play a critical role to press for lasting changes.
“We need our young people to challenge their teachers, we need our teachers to challenge the administrators, we need teachers to challenge the policymakers, and those are all things we can do that doesn’t take an act of Congress,” he says.
And while Dean says conversations are an important start, he says they’re just that: the first step. He says people need to exercise their right to vote, and that a good measure of effective advocacy, is policy change.