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DeKalb Residents Address Race & Representation At Special School Board Meeting

Peter Medlin
Chris Grays of DeKalb gives his perspective.

The DeKalb School Board held a special meeting today on Juneteenth to ask members of the public to talk about their experiences with racism and inequality in the school system.

The need for more staff diversity was brought up by several speakers. Surveys showracial disparities between the numbers of black students and teachersexist across the country.

According to the Illinois Report Card, more than 20% of DeKalb students are Black. But, only 2% of the district’s teachers are Black. The imbalance is similar between Latinx students and teachers.

Chris Grays is a Black DeKalb resident who was a student in the district from kindergarten through high school.

“I feel like I see no diversity, no people of color in leadership roles. I feel like a lot of the minorities are in small roles like teacher assistant, student assistant, coaches,” he said.

Grays, and others who gave public comments, talked about expanding the Black history curriculum.

Lige Caples is a Black DeKalb High School graduate. He says he never experienced any unfairness at DeKalb, and had teachers and coaches who changed his life.

But he says he wanted the schools to teach a more comprehensive look at Black history and civil rights in America.

“I’m 20 years old, I’ll be 21 in October, and as of maybe two days ago I didn’t even know what Juneteenth was,” he said. “And I felt very bad because I’m one of the leaders for the protest that’s been going on and everything.”

Another resident called for an updated literature curriculum as well, to include more diverse authors.

And along with that, more enrichment clubs for students of color and LGBTQ students.

Several speakers mentioned a lack of minority students in Advanced Placement classes. Surveys show racial gaps are pervasive in nearly every district’s AP programs.

Jessica Lyons, a parent and educator, called for DeKalb to hire a DEIA (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access) officer. Some also pushed for social justice and racial bias training.

The board didn’t discuss possible solutions, but say they want to continue the conversation with another meeting in July.