DeKALB – Events spanning about
15 years, starting with accusations of racial discrimination at DeKalb High School in 2004, led to the creation and adoption of a diversity plan at DeKalb School District 428 in response to shifting school demographics.
The district board approved the diversity plan at Tuesday nights meeting, after months of work by James Cohen of Northern Illinois University, J.Q. Adams of Western Illinois University and other staff members trained in social justice.
According to data from the plan, there were 5,988 students enrolled in District 428 schools in the 2008-09 school year. About 12 percent of those students were African American,
18 percent were Hispanic, and 62 percent were white. Of the 6,626 students enrolled this past school year, 19 percent were African American, 27 percent were Hispanic, and 46 percent were white.
The seven changes recommended in the diversity plan are implementing professional development on cultural competence and inclusion; developing welcoming processes like mentoring programs; strengthening school spirit and collaboration; emphasizing nonviolent and compassionate communication; developing a two-way dual language program; implementing courageous leadership education; and addressing pervasive bullying.
The plan has the support of both DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith and Northern Illinois University acting President Lisa Freeman.
“We are an increasingly diverse community in an increasingly diverse region, and we must be purposeful about putting our beliefs into action,” Freeman said in an email sent to District 428 Curriculum Director Jennie Hueber in February. “With its emphasis on demonstrable progress in clearly identified areas, the plan you have envisioned can make a real difference in the lives of your students, teachers and families.”