NA For Change Releases A Statement Ahead of the May 19th North Allegheny School Board Meeting

We, NA For Change, believe that an inclusive environment leaves no one behind; that analyzing unfiltered history fosters critical thinkers; that being uncomfortable in the classroom fulfills the purpose of an education: to teach students about the world, its people, and their place and future in it. Providing students with a holistic education and analytical tools fosters promising leaders—ones that can tackle today’s troubles and move us forward.

We demonstrate our beliefs through our advocacy work by hosting drives, fundraisers, and rallies. We have also spent time working with students from other student-led groups from Georgia to Alaska. Here at home, we have shown our dedication by consistently maintaining a presence at school board meetings. Our work is buoyed by the urgency and passion of a diverse stakeholder group: students, alumni, parents, teachers, and community members have all contributed to a conversation about racism and other systemic issues. This is a long-overdue intervention in the North Allegheny School District.

We are energized by the changes proposed by the March 24th Diversity report, led by the reincarnated Diversity Committee now known as NA Empower. The report reflected the in-depth conversations members of our coalition have had with students and the North Allegheny administration in the past year. For that, we are grateful.

The actionable items incorporated many aspects of our Addendum, supporting our understanding that those with lived experiences are often uniquely equipped to propose solutions. NA Empower can further prove that students, teachers, and administrators alike can set the course for a district desperately in need of cultural change and policy implementation. What has been publicly reported to this point is just one step in creating the learning environment that the North Allegheny community deserves. More must be done, and we will do everything we can to push the compass needle in the right direction.

The district administration’s plan to act under the NA Empower structure must be built on the foundational knowledge of what it means to act in the name of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Clarifying these terms and garnering a nuanced understanding of what they actually mean—beyond the talking points of primetime television and misinformed Facebook posts—is critical. Our team has had the honor of spending the last year studying what it means to advocate for these principles. Education is a never-ending journey, and we look forward to seeing how the district will live up to its academic rigor by fulfilling what it truly means to practice diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Obstacles to action are frustrating. After listening to the remarks of the May 12th North Allegheny school board meeting, we were disappointed to learn that an action item regarding the funding of an equity trainings was pulled from the agenda. According to the district’s public statements, the aforementioned trainings are the first step in replacing the No Place For Hate program and creating district-wide DEI programs. Not only is pulling an agenda item without the full consent of the board a rare occurrence, but the scattershot reasoning given for the decision sows doubt as to the motives behind the decision. Questions regarding the funding—which would comprise 0.004205% of the school district’s budget—quickly deteriorated into a hit-or-miss interrogation, including a question over training all school board members versus only some (a moot point, since the workshops
are not paid on a per-individual basis).

We respectfully and frustratingly make a simple request to the school board: stop playing political games and fulfill the responsibilities of your role in acting in the best interests of the students of the school district.

Students just want to exist in peace. They want to attend school and not deal with the constant harm that is often met with neglect. They want to see themselves and their peers represented in a curriculum that leaves their histories out. We, NA For Change, are focused on addressing issues at their root to advocate for policies and a culture that will not write off racism, prejudice, and aggression or immediately label any proposed solutions as “radical” or as “the advancement of a political agenda.”

There is strength in numerous perspectives, even more when they are diverse ones. There is justice through equity. There is room for compassion through inclusion. These items are not a zero-sum game. They are essential and stand to benefit all students regardless of their background. When we can get past the both-sides arguments for diversity, past the moral panic around the truth of white supremacy, and past the self-serving desire to leave marginalized students and teachers behind, then North Allegheny School District can say that it serves everyone in the greater community.

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