Jennifer Greif

ASHLAND — The Hanover County School Board is considering adopting a new policy regarding equity and will take action on the proposal at next month’s meeting.

Board members were briefed on that new policy at this month’s meeting by assistant superintendent Jennifer Greif, and a number of speakers address-ed the issue during a public comment period.

The draft document “recognizes that every child deserves an education based upon fundamental principles of equity.”

The proposed policy commits to ensuring that equity applies to all Hanover students.

“To that end, the division superintendent and all employees will create a barrier free educational experience for all students that accepts and acknowledges their individuality based on race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, cognitive/physical/emotional abilities, English language fluency, gender religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, and other personal characteristics,” the proposal states.

The new policy outlines guiding principles designed to embrace equity, including classroom experiences that allow all students to have a clear path toward college or career with equitable resources and challenging curricula.

All employees will promote a safe and welcoming environment and human resources will promote recruitment strategies that attract a diverse and highly qualified staff.

Professional development will focus by providing information that assists developing strategies that support all learners.

The document includes a commitment to promote funding strategies that provide additional resources to the neediest schools and students.

The public will be able to see the results related to equity by postings on the Hanover County Public Schools’ website that will include data and findings as well as recommendations to promote “transparency, cultivate continuous improvement and build trust.

If approved at next month’s meeting, staff will prepare an annual equity report that will include information on equitable opportunities, student achievement, discipline outcomes human resources and resource allocation.

The Community Equity Board assisted in the preparation of the new policy, and will continue to meet and provide annual recommendations to the board.

Finally, the division’s long-range plans will contain specific equity-related goals and methods to achieve them.

Rachel Levy, representing Together Hanover, endorsed the new policy during a public comment period at last week’s meeting.

“We would like to thank the Equity Committee for all of their work in general and in particular would like to voice our enthusiastic support for the full proposed equity policy that will be the subject of a first read on your agenda tonight,” Levy said.

She indicated the new policy would result in a safer environment for students.

“We have many members in our organization who identify as LGBTQ or who are allies of the LGBTQ community, and many of us have children who identify as LBGTQ,” Levy said. “We are sometimes concerned about their safety in Hanover schools.”

Levy said the new policy is a much needed step for Hanover schools.

“ She said the new policy would help “Hanover County Public Schools to foster and nurture an equitable and safe educational experience for LGBTQ students that accepts and acknowledges those students’ identities.”

“We urge the School Board to support this policy in its entirety,” Levy concluded.

Also during the public comment period, two students made poignant presentations addressing their own brand of equity.

A seventh-grader revealed her struggle with eating disorders and expressed a desire for Hanover schools to better inform and educate students and teachers regarding the problem. She suggested that at least one health class each year focus on eating disorders and each school have a point of contact for students struggling with the problem.

The seventh-grader’s mother explained that children with eating disorders are 12 times as likely to commit suicide.

Another parent and her son spoke in favor of inclusion in Hanover schools for students with special needs. Allison Thurman, chairman of the county Special Education Advisory Committee, said classroom inclusion plays a major role in determining the success of special needs children when they venture out into independent living situations.

“You should be the same with me as you are with everybody else,” her son said. He expressed a desire to attend college and his love for Guitar Hero, not unlike many students in his age group.

In other matters, the board announced a policy that would reward any employee that successfully recruits a school bus driver. Both the driver and the recruiter will receive $500 if the driver completes the entire year.

The recent resignation of board chair Roger Bourassa and elevation of Sue Dibble to the Hanover County Board of Supervisors leaves the school board with only five members and required reorganization at last week’s meeting. John Axselle will serve as chair and Ola Hawkins will be vice chair for the remainder of the year. Another member will be appointed for the South Anna seat at a Board of Supervisors meeting later this month, and Bourassa’s vacancy will be filled next month.

The annual budget process continues and a public hearing on the proposed document is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28, at the Central Office.

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