Action or afterthought? DV’s Diversity Committee is at a crossroads

| 11 Aug 2021 | 04:40

To the Editor:

I don’t know about you, but for me this winter was particularly brutal. The wicked cold, the feet upon feet of snow, and the unceasing political drama that my organization grappled with in the early days of the Biden administration threatened to wreak havoc on my sunny(ish) disposition. For those who don’t know me (i.e., almost all of you), I’m Steven Teague and I’m the executive director of TriVersity: The Pride Center. TriVersity’s mission is to provide a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community living in the tristate area. The opinions below are my own.

In late February, the Delaware valley school board official Dawn Bukaj shared some rather unsettling remarks on social media toward now-Deputy Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine, and the trans community broadly speaking. Upon learning of these remarks, I drafted a public letter to Ms. Bukaj, on behalf of TriVersity, condemning the remarks and asking for an apology.

I doubt very much that this letter influenced Ms. Bukaj’s subsequent behavior in any way whatsoever, but the letter certainly appeared to assist in galvanizing our community against this type of ignorance and meanness. At the following school board meeting, many concerned members of the greater Pike community, alongside the TriVersity community, spoke out against Ms. Bukaj’s remarks and a culture at DV that potentially rendered minority students unsafe. Although there was no censuring of Ms. Bukaj, action was taken. A diversity committee was ultimately formed for the expressed purpose of recommending policies to make DV a better and safer space for minority students and staff. Hooray! Right?

Several months later and, with no disrespect toward its membership, I cannot help but wonder if the Diversity Committee and its mission were ever going to be taken seriously by the DV school board at large. Nothing of consequence has arisen from the committee’s infrequent meetings. In fact, the committee has not publicly met in two-plus months. Heaven forbid you missed one of those infrequent meetings because, to the best of my knowledge, the Diversity Committee is the only DV subcommittee whose public meetings are not archived through publicly accessible recordings, transcripts, or even minutes. Attempts to inquire as to when the next meeting will take place have been met with a wait-and-see response.

This is all very unfortunate. If the DV school board would decide in earnest to utilize its Diversity Committee, they could make major inroads toward taking a school system renowned for its quality of education and training and enhancing it into a model institution for diversity, inclusion, and student safety. Instead, nothing is done and marginalized children and staff alike suffer for it. We owe it to all our kids to do better, so I ask that you please encourage your local school board officials to take the mission of this committee seriously and get it back to work. If and when this happens, I can safely speak for TriVersity when I say we will do whatever we can to help.

Steven C. Teague