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Policy addresses need for equal access to education regardless of student background

The Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education adopted on Wednesday, September 1, a comprehensive Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policy.

According to the policy, the school board “is committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive learning environment where all students, including and especially those currently and historically marginalized, feel safe, included, welcomed, and accepted, and experience a sense of belonging and the potential for academic success.

During his address at the district’s annual convocation, Mount Vernon Schools Superintendent Dr. Kenneth R. Hamilton addressed the importance of the new policy and how inclusion needs to be a focus in all aspects of education.

“It’s not about treating me the way you want people to treat you,” said Hamilton. “It’s about treating me the way I deserve to be treated.”

Dr. Hamilton said the district is committed to ensuring that students “develop positive connections and relationships with all people in our community.”

The superintendent and school board will continue to monitor the success of the policy and ensure that each school complies with the new policy. A board Task Force on Equity and Inclusion will be created, and a district-wide Diversity, Equity and Inclusion leader will be established. Both will work with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinating Committees in each school.

“Students should be able to see themselves reflected in their curriculum, their physical surroundings and the broader environment, in which diversity is honored and all individuals are respected,” the policy stated.

One of the policy features calls for the district to research whether the companies it does business with embrace a like-minded approach to diversity and inclusion.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion are not achievable by teachers and students alone,” said Board President Adriane G. Saunders. “These goals are the product of the entire school district and the community.”

Earlier this year, the New York State Board of Regents launched an initiative to promote inclusion in schools and created a framework to encourage districts across the state to adopt policies advancing diversity, equity and inclusion as a priority in their schools. Mount Vernon’s policy was first introduced to the Board of Education on June 15 and unanimously adopted at its Sept. 1 meeting.