School District of Philadelphia launches 'Equity Coalition' to root out racist practices

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The School District of Philadelphia has launched what it calls an "Equity Coalition" to root out racism and inequities in its policies.

The district is looking into whether its practices or bias among staff members could be contributing to factors including why fewer minorities are chosen for special-admissions magnet schools, or racial disparities in how students are disciplined.

The 17-member Equity Coalition will include members of the central office staff, school leaders and teachers.

Superintendent William Hite said in a city beset by poverty the Equity Coalition is a long-term effort to identify and change the factors the district can control.

"We want to disrupt and eliminate all of those systems that have disadvantaged some individuals by not providing access to those types of opportunities based on where they lived and who they were," Hite told reporters.

"While we may not have the control over all of those other general conditions, we do have control over policies that exist within the school district, and practices that have happened in the school district that are essentially inequitable and racist," Hite said.

"Regardless of everything else that's happening those are the things within our control and we want to make sure as best we can that we can eliminate those barriers for our families and for our young people."

Hite said the Equity Coalition's first year is a planning year to identify inequities and to make recommendations for action in the fall of 2021. The district is also forming a 20-member Equity Partners Fellowship that will include teachers and high school students who will examine racism through experiential learning.

"We understand that ensuring true justice within our district requires a multipronged approach where we need to build an army of equity champions across our district," said Estelle Acquah, a special projects director in the district’s Office of Leadership Development and Evaluation.​