Baker launches Equity 365

Nishi Tripathi

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Photo by Yuval Shachar

Counselor James Stradley wears his Equity 365 shirt and points to an Equity 365 sign. Signs were posted throughout hallways to remind students and staff to follow the initiative’s steps.

The new Equity 365 initiative can best be characterized as Principal Jennifer Baker’s “utopian vision” for the Walter Johnson community, a vision where all students feel like their identity is acknowledged and they are both encouraged and invited to learn at their school.

The basis of the initiative was created over the summer and past year as a response to concerns regarding equity raised by students both directly to the faculty and outside of school on social media platforms

Drawing inspiration from the school superintendent’s “Prosper 100” plan, the school administration, led by Baker, worked in study circles with staff members, held student town halls and collected survey data to determine major equity problems and how to address them.

Equity 365 emphasizes the importance of the student-teacher relationship and the responsibility of educators to create welcoming environments. In preparation for this school year, all staff members underwent implicit bias and restorative justice training to aid with implementation of the program.

Plans for the student end include creating presentations for homeroom lessons, hanging up posters around the school and collaborating with social studies teacher Allison Hoefling who holds the newly created Equity and Diversity position to reach out to clubs and programs. Through collaboration with various student groups and the Student Advisory Committee, Hoefling also aims to increase equity in leadership and work proactively to create a culture of open communication.

As all new changes at the school, Equity 365 is not without its skeptics.

“From what I’ve heard, it sounds a lot like stuff they were already saying in previous years,” senior Sabrina Levri said. “I’m not sure how much will actually change.”

In the past, many incidents went unreported due to fear of retaliation or a lack of faith in the system. Baker acknowledges this and claims that complaints are always investigated and actions are taken, but private issues cannot always be disclosed to the student body. Still, in lieu of these concerns, Hoefling will be working to create a better reporting system to address issues and normalize students speaking up.

Citing her growing dismay with increasing polarization within the student body as another major factor behind the creation of the initiative, Baker says that mediation and compromise, as opposed to punishment, will be the administration’s focus moving forward.that rather than punishment the focus will be on mediation and working to understand both sides.

“One of the biggest areas of conflict is that we don’t know each other,” Baker said.

Through Equity 365, Baker hopes to create an inclusive and open-minded culture that is accepting of different points of view and works to understand the experiences and emotions of each other.

“I realized that I couldn’t control the world, but I can lead this building and help other people make a difference,” Baker said.