LTPS Commitment to Equity and Diversity
Lawrence Township has always been and continues to be a diverse community. Being a National District of Character since 2016, we have worked to immerse students in making good decisions. Following a local event and the social unrest across the country in spring of 2020, the district wanted to do more to understand and define the issues facing our district, our community and our world.
Lawrence Township Public Schools (LTPS) wanted to take purposeful action to create an environment that supports all students and staff. To educate our students about social justice, we wanted to immerse them by developing a curriculum that was specific to teaching diversity, by highlighting groups that have been marginalized by society. Gaining an understanding of how people are different and still similar, is the first step to teaching tolerance and acceptance of others.
During the 2020-21 school year, the district implemented a social justice curriculum for grades K-6. This curriculum was developed in collaboration with representatives from the teaching staff and our district supervisors.
The Social Justice curriculum teaches students to:
- recognize unfair and unjust treatment of others through differences
- understand how power can be used to make positive change
- observe opportunities for seeing how positive change happens
- become leaders in creating change
Our social justice curriculum provides 1-2 monthly lessons focused on district-wide themes. These themes are taught using children’s literature and developmentally appropriate lessons centered around conversations and discussions. The monthly themes include units on Skin Color, Diverse Families, Socioeconomic Differences, Gender Identify/True Self, Disabilities, Multicultural Books, Women’s History, Refugees/Immigrants, Bias/Prejudice, Being an Ally/Protest and the Amistad Act.
Last year, the district established and empowered Equity Warriors (teacher leaders in the district's equity initiative) to lead professional development and support the instructional staff with facilitating the monthly social justice themes. The Equity Warriors were led by district administration and consultants from Heart of Palm Education. The Equity Warriors continue to remain in place to support the training of the staff and implementation of the district equity initiative.
During the 2021-22 school year, the district hired a Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). This position was created to help embed the intended practices in the curriculum, instruction, hiring practices and daily procedures across the district. The Director of EDI will do this by reviewing the district curriculum, providing professional development to staff, meeting with the community and reviewing daily procedures to determine areas of strength and areas that are in need of improvement. Recently, the Director of EDI has spoken at the district BOE meetings and presented on Belonging and Microaggressions.
The district has taken steps to develop a learning environment where all students are accepted regardless of their differences. All students are encouraged to celebrate individual differences and use this information to become leaders in making positive changes in our schools, our community and the world.
Article was written with contributions from Maureen Hayes, LTPS Supervisor of K-6 ELA, SS, WL and K-12 Librarians and Erika Smoots, LTPS 3rd grade teacher and Equity Warrior.