LISD S.E.E. to bring educational equity to schools district-wide

Photo+via+LISD+S.E.E%27s+Instagram+

Photo via LISD S.E.E’s Instagram

LISD S.E.E is a student-run club striving for sustainability, inclusivity and educational equity within school curriculum and policies. The group was started in July, and plans for a district-wide launch later in the school year.

The members have created an Instagram account that covers student testimonials of discrimination. The testimonials inspired the group to write a clause that forces staff to take timely action when faced with social injustice. The account will also post updates and accomplishments of LISD S.E.E. 

“The testimonials have been a really eye-opening way, as an organization and individuals who attend these schools, to see the experiences of people with identities that we don’t have,” founder, junior Nandita Kumar, said. “We have had many disheartening experiences, but it helps us see what changes we can make that we wouldn’t have thought of before. A lot of students don’t get justice for the experiences they face. Many students don’t get punished for their actions or their words, which does not create a safe learning environment.”

The club was founded on the hope that other students could avoid the different types of discrimination many of the members have faced within their schools. The group has been in contact with staff members from various schools in order to receive helpful criticism about their demands. 

“As a brown-skinned person with an Indian name, teachers and my peers sometimes assumed, before they got to know me that I got good grades,” Race and Ethnicity Director junior Tejaswini Ramkumar Babu said. “Some of my classmates who I barely knew at the time would be eager to team up with me because they thought I could get a good grade on our group projects. 

“Teachers would pair me up with students I did not get along with, hoping I will be able to help them study or complete work. I know that some teachers and students don’t realize that they are stereotyping me as an intelligent Indian student, and that they perform these kinds of actions based on their subconscious thoughts.”

The organization has posted an online form for students to submit their experiences of discrimination. Some students have already submitted their own accounts of racism within the school in hopes of educating the public about the prevalence of discrimination. Everyone who contributes to a post is labeled anonymous.

“Sharing my own experiences helps me realize that I’m not the only person that goes through this,” an anonymous source said. “Also, it helps people to start recognizing their own privilege and that helps me as a person because it’s like I’m making some sort of impact by bringing awareness.”

Students who are a part of LISD S.E.E. are also hoping to create change in school policies and behavior towards different ethnicities, races and sexualities. The group hopes to implement mandatory anti-bias training for staff members in the future. 

“If you ask any educator or student at school, they will say that racism is bad,” Babu said. “However, unconsciously, their implicit biases can cause them to develop predetermined ideas about an individual based on stereotypes and generalizations of that individual’s racial group.”

The organization has already started developing a list of demands for change within the school curriculum. They will add information about marginalized communities that were previously excluded from the TEKS (Texas Educators Knowledge and Skills) curriculum. 

“There are so many gaps in the curriculum we were taught all the way from elementary, middle school and high school,” Kumar said. “It really showed the huge gap in cultural understanding and the real interpretations of what happened in history. It’s important to me that we are taught accurate inclusive history as well as in other subjects. Those experiences and other narratives are really important to understand how our society and other societies are shaped.”

Members have been contacting staff and school board members throughout the district in order to spread awareness of racial inclusivity within other schools. 

“We also have plans for elective courses that we will be presenting soon,” Babu said. “In doing so, we hope to break racial and ethnic stereotypes, allow for better understanding between those different races and cultivate an environment where LGTBQ+ (lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, queer) people of color feel safe.”

The group plans to finalize their list of demands for the school, as well as expand their club to other schools within the district. The members hope to attend school board meetings in the future. 

“As students we have a lot of power to make a change,” Kumar said. “I wanted to disrupt the way we have been doing this and allow others to have an equitable experience at school and a safe learning environment.”