NewsPinellas County


Tampa Bay school districts propose changes to combat racial inequality

Posted at 5:36 PM, Jun 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-09 18:46:57-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — School district leaders across the Tampa Bay area are taking a closer look at racial inequality. Education leaders tell ABC Action News that protests in the Tampa Bay area and nationwide are calling attention to the need for change.

Caprice Edmond is a St. Petersburg mom of 4. She says protests and the death of George Floyd have become an important subject for her family to discuss.

“Talking to our kids about what’s going on is complicated. They are seeing it on the news, seeing it on social media. I want our kids to experience equity and know it’s okay to be themselves," she said.

Edmond is happy to hear that not only are police departments changing their protocols, but school districts too.

Three local school districts, Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough Counties, sent out letters to parents to acknowledge the pain they may be feeling in the wake of George Floyd’s death, and nearly all Tampa Bay area districts are working on policies this summer to address racial inequity.

Pinellas County is training more staff on diversity. District leaders say sign-ups for the training are skyrocketing since Floyd’s death.

Hillary Van Dyke is the Senior Professional Development Coordinator for Equality and says she has already trained 144 teachers this week to recognize racial bias and combat it.

“There are loads of teachers interested, wanting a change and wanting to make things better for their students,” Van Dyke explained.

Pasco County is launching a new equity team to look for racial biases in hiring and promoting teachers, as well as getting minority students into advanced classes and other issues.

Steve Hegarty, Pasco County School District’s spokesperson, says they hope to send a message to the community that there are ways to continually improve racial disparities.

“There’s a lot of things that if we get it right, can make a real difference in our community and here in our schools," he said.

Hillsborough County is appointing a new transformation officer in charge of struggling schools and a new chief of equity and diversity.

Some school board members, including Pinellas County board member Rene Flowers, are also asking for school resource officers to be retrained on how to handle discipline.

“So that the community knows and the students know that the police we have in our schools are there for protection and safety,” Flowers added.

Edmond says an enhanced focus on racial disparities is long overdue and much needed.

“We have to change. Our children, our community and our future is depending on it,” she said.

You can read Pasco County’s memo, Pinellas County’s letter and Hillsborough County’s newsletter at these links.