This movement had local officials, including the Cy-Fair ISD board of trustees, asking similar questions. In June, trustees John Ogletree, Julie Hinaman and Gilbert Sarabia were tasked with writing a resolution condemning racism, which was signed when trustees convened at the Sept. 14 meeting.
“Recent events in our country have brought to the forefront the disturbing issues of racism, systemic racism, discrimination, injustice and inequality,” Ogletree read from the resolution Aug. 10. “These issues go against the motto of our district: opportunity for all.”
Chief of Employee and Student Services Deborah Stewart oversees a committee launched over the summer designed to evaluate the equity of academic opportunity, representation in hiring and student discipline measures in CFISD. Per this resolution, the board plans to consult with an outside group to conduct an equity audit and ultimately help develop a plan to address issues of equity in these areas districtwide.
The establishment of a districtwide equity policy is one of the recommendations from the Citywide Implicit Bias Project—a Houston-based initiative designed to address the overrepresentation of students of color in school disciplinary systems.
Marcus Ceniceros, one of the leaders of the project, said this is an issue in most Texas school districts due to individual biases and certain public policies in place that might disproportionately affect students from a particular location, racial identity or income level.
“Black students are disproportionately affected by all school discipline—that includes in-school suspensions, out-of-school suspensions, referrals to alternative education programs and then also to the criminal justice system,” he said. “What we wanted to be able to do is start asking why that’s happening in a local context. The reason that it might be happening in Cy-Fair ISD might actually be different than why it’s happening in [Houston] ISD or in Klein or in Spring Branch.”
According to state data, students of color in CFISD are disproportionately disciplined. African American students made up 18.5% of enrollment in 2018-19 but accounted for 38.7% of suspensions that year.
The Citywide Implicit Bias Project also recommends mandatory implicit bias training for educators. In CFISD, 66.4% of teachers were white in 2018-19, while the student population was 24.2% white.
When it comes to academics, nearly 96% of white students graduated from CFISD in 2018, while less than 90% of Black students graduated, according to district data.
“It is really important that a population of any identity isn’t being left behind in particular in academics,” Ceniceros said.
Other action steps laid out in the board’s resolution include requiring the study and celebration of the history of different races, genders and other groups as well as having all schools in the district deemed “No Place for Hate” schools.
No Place for Hate is a program from the Anti-Defamation League designed to create and maintain school environments where all students can thrive through anti-bias and bullying-prevention activities.
Trustee Tom Jackson brought forth a unanimously supported amendment Aug. 10 to mandate board members participate in continuing education on the topics of racism, discrimination and injustice.
“We have an obligation to help shape the lives of our students toward a better America, free of racism and systemic oppression,” the resolution reads.