Exploring the Behaviors and Actions That Promote Racial Justice in K-12
The Hallmarks of an Anti-Racist K-12 Institution
Making progress on racial justice issues is an ongoing priority in the education system. In doing so, institutional leaders must include a balance of both immediate, short-term actions with longer-term strategies. From policies and curricula to institutional history and community relations, leaders must navigate the complex systems of K-12 education to uproot structural racism. But where to start?
Becoming an anti-racist institution involves a conscious, active, and ongoing effort to address the multi-dimensional aspects of racism in our communities and society. EAB has defined the following hallmarks to guide institutional leaders as they develop their journey towards racial justice. The holistic framework illustrates areas that span across units and function to transform the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community members.
This infographic offers an interactive experience to learn about each of the hallmarks through the lives of four BIPOC community members. Click through to meet each person and read about how institutional structures and behaviors have impacted their experience. Then dive into each hallmark to learn about its key attributes and discover examples of what the hallmark looks like in practice.
Public School Districts
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Public School Hallmarks
Independent School Hallmarks
Hallmarks of Anti-Racism Framework
Learn more about our community members by clicking on each of the six hallmarks below.
Consistently Assess District Strategy, Policies, and Operations Through a Racial Justice Lens
Avoid being “colorblind” in strategic visioning, planning, budgeting, and resource allocation, and intentionally consider the impact of all decisions on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Create structures that support coordinated and sustained implementation of racial diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts district wide. Build shared buy-in, ownership, and accountability for progress toward racial justice and do not disproportionately burden BIPOC in critical anti-racism work.
Key attributes include:
Ownership and accountability
- Creating cabinet-level leadership over DEI and anti-racism efforts with appropriate funding and scope of role
- Incentivizing an ongoing commitment to anti-racism among all district leaders and individual schools and actors
- Recognizing and interrogating data biases; using data to set clear, long-term strategic goals for racial justice work
- Assessing, tracking, and publicly reporting on progress and key performance indicators by intersectional demographic characteristics
Finance and budgeting
- Considering the impact of budget models, budgeting decisions, and funding allocation on racial justice
- Updating procurement practices and dedicating work contracts to BIPOC-owned businesses
- Engaging in work to increase diversity of board membership
- Helping the board understand the impact of structural racism on K-12 education and their role in advancing racial justice
Estefania Rivera, Parent: (translated from Spanish) "We just got a new superintendent for my district who, once again, declared closing achievement gaps between students of color and White kids is a priority. How much of this is lip service? Every few years we get a new program of some sort, but I never know what’s supposed to change for my boys and I don’t see any real progress.”
Profiled Example: Albemarle County Public Schools
Create and Scale Curricular & Co-Curricular Experiences That Are Reflective and Inclusive of BIPOC
Recognize how curricular design and instructional practices commonly whitewash disciplines, reinforce racist ideals, and impede the learning and engagement of BIPOC. Interrogate the consequences of legacy practices related to student academic placement and progress and ensure that BIPOC students have equitable access to education- and career-enhancing services and supports.
Key attributes include:
Early childhood education
- Investing in the expansion of high-quality, universal early childhood education for BIPOC youth
Curriculum and pedagogy
- Redesigning curricula across disciplines to include BIPOC scholars, history, and academic contributions
- Providing ongoing training and incentivizing teachers to implement inclusive pedagogy and assessments
Academic and college advising
- Ensuring BIPOC students have equitable access to culturally responsive academic advising and placement practices, college counseling advice, and college application support
Career development support
- Ensuring BIPOC students have equitable access to diverse and inclusive career exploration, mentorships, professional skill development, and experiential learning opportunities
Aaliyah Jackson, Student :“I heard that in AP Government and Politics, students get to work on a cool project where they research the history of housing inequity in our neighborhood and interview community nonprofits who are working to solve the problem. It sounds amazing! But I need to have a 3.2 GPA to get into the class and I’m at a 2.9, so my counselor advised me not to try for AP and ‘stick with what will set me up for success.’”
Michael Gray, Teacher: “I’m the only teacher who uses non-Eurocentric lessons with my students. I still teach about the Middle Ages and the bubonic plague, but instead of just focusing on what was going on in Europe, my class also talks about the plague’s effect in Cairo and on the Islamic world. I see my peers only doing what’s comfortable for them, not what would broaden our students’ perspectives.”
Profiled Example: Orange County Public Schools
Build an Inclusive Climate that Promotes Learning and Safety for All Community Members
Engage in productive, open, and ongoing dialogues about enduring racism across the district. Foster communal learning and growth and provide regular opportunities for community members to recognize and disrupt their own biases. Create a safe and open environment for BIPOC to share experiences of bias or harassment and ensure that such incidents are taken seriously and appropriately addressed.
Key attributes include:
Training and awareness
- Implementing mandatory and ongoing cultural competency, implicit bias, and anti-racism trainings and awareness campaigns
- Providing ongoing training, support for all teachers and staff to implement trauma-informed and restorative justice practices
- Conducting school climate studies to measure how the district supports racial DEI and capture experiences with discrimination and harassment
- Using climate data to redress harmful policies and practices
Incident reporting and response
- Confronting racist acts (e.g., hate crimes, bias incidents), including a transparent reporting system and response team with strong institutional norms of investigating, and appropriately sanctioning incidents
- Reimagining security and school resource officer programs to balance student well-being with safety considerations
Aaliyah Jackson, Student: “I told my homeroom teacher that I want to be a teacher, too. She told me that I’d never make it because I’m too loud and I’d need to straighten my hair to look professional. I know her response was wrong, but who do I even tell? I’ll just keep it to myself.”
Nik Bluestone, Alum: “I can’t recall any major fights ever breaking out in my school and our neighborhood wasn’t dangerous at all. But one day I brought in my grandfather’s bow to school for a project and I almost got suspended by security. One even muttered that kids ‘like me’ are the problem and I should go back to the reservation.”
Profiled Example: A Systemic Approach to Managing Behavioral Disruptions in Early Grades
EAB’s research on how educators can effectively prevent or manage student misbehavior instead of traditional discipline methods highlights four high-impact, systemic practices to set the foundation for a districtwide response to behavioral disruptions. Districts can also reimagine discipline and school safety through Student Safety Coaches, an alternative to School Resource Officers.
Sustain Investment in Recruiting, Developing, and Advancing the Careers of BIPOC Teachers and Staff
Actively monitor trends and disparities in employee racial diversity across all phases of teacher and staff hiring, retention, and promotion. Ensure that racial representation is reflected across functional areas of the district and that BIPOC are not primarily relegated to financially vulnerable positions. Invest in the ongoing professional development of staff and create viable pathways for BIPOC to advance into leadership roles.
Key attributes include:
- Building equitable, inclusive, and supportive pathways into teaching for BIPOC (e.g., grow your own programs, teacher residencies)
- Implementing equitable and inclusive hiring practices for all teacher and staff roles (e.g., recruitment networks, job ad composition, hiring timelines, interview and evaluation criteria)
Induction and support
- Considering the explicit impact of school and course placement practices on racial justice goals; creating robust, inclusive teacher induction programs and practices
- Providing equitable access to ongoing, high-quality, and inclusive mentorship and professional learning opportunities
- Providing equitable and inclusive networking and leadership development opportunities
- Ensuring equitable evaluation criteria and structures lead to recognition, advancement, and leadership roles
Michael Gray, Teacher: “A student was shot and killed in a nearby neighborhood. Since I’m one of two teachers of color at this school, I have a flood of emails from my Black and Brown kids wanting to talk. It’s going to push back my lesson planning and grading for the day, but it’s important that I make the space to talk to my students, even if my principal won’t be happy.”
Profiled Example: Cherry Creek School District
Center and Celebrate the Lived Experiences of BIPOC within Institutional Culture
Acknowledge and address their historical complicity in racial segregation, oppression, and slavery. Ensure that district traditions and symbols are reflective of the diversity of the broader community and elevate the cultural assets of BIPOC across all dimensions of the student, staff, and alumni experiences.
Key attributes include:
Traditions and celebrations
- Contextualizing and expanding historical figures, alumni, traditions, and holidays celebrated by the district
- Increasing representation of BIPOC in internal and external communications (e.g., branding, newsletters)
- Acknowledging original inhabitants of the land occupied by the district and the role of K-12 education institutions in perpetuating racial oppression
- Developing guidelines to engage in truth, reconciliation, reparations conversations
- Acknowledging and addressing racist institutional symbols (e.g., mascots, statues, and buildings)
- Setting protocols for future decisions regarding district facilities and symbols
- Engaging BIPOC alumni as lifelong members of the school community (e.g., through events, newsletters, mentorship opportunities) in an ongoing, targeted, and culturally responsive way
Nik Bluestone, Alum: “I only recently realized how problematic it was for our school mascot to be a Native American—actually, a Hopi warrior. I used to laugh it off when friends pointed and said it looked like me. More and more I recall the microaggressions I faced, but my school still won’t take those experiences seriously and address the problem.”
Michael Gray, Teacher: “I tell my students the history behind our school namesake – that he was a community leader who amassed a fortune trading slaves. My students always look at me in shock – and some even look betrayed. My peers aren’t having these conversations. One parent even emailed me to ‘stop telling my daughter we’re racist just because you’re an angry Black man.’”
Profiled Example: School Districts in Monroe County, NY
Recognizing the necessity to engage students in critical discussions around Rochester’s history with issues of equity and social justice, 23 school district superintendents across Monroe County, NY shared resources to develop a county-wide anti-racism curriculum that would create broad engagement and shared understanding—no matter what school students attended—of the race-based disparities they witness in their day-to-day lives.
Establish Robust Partnerships to Advocate for Racial Justice in the Local and Extended Community
Seek and center the leadership and lived experiences of BIPOC to understand and heal legacies of racial trauma in the local community, region, and in society writ large. Reevaluate relationships with businesses and organizations that perpetuate cycles of systemic racism and inequity and commit to sustained investment in infrastructure and partnerships that uplift BIPOC communities.
Key attributes include:
Racial justice advocacy
- Advocating for racially equitable policies at the federal, state, and
local levels (e.g., funding, attendance boundaries, teacher certification and evaluation criteria)
- Partnering with community-based organizations working to advance racial justice to amplify their work
Outreach and engagement
- Developing equitable and inclusive family outreach programs and engagement strategies
- Leading community dialogue about enduring racism, promoting healing
- Reevaluating formal and informal relationships with local police
Basic needs infrastructure
- Investing in affordable housing, food system, health and mental health care, and technology infrastructures in coordination with businesses and community-based organizations to ensure basic needs of BIPOC students and families are supported
- Building accessible pathways into higher education through ongoing, and well-funded partnerships (including HBCUs, HSIs, and MSIs)
- Creating equitable and inclusive teacher, staff, and school/district leadership pipelines and development programs for BIPOC
Estefania Rivera, Parent: (translated from Spanish) "I work two jobs to support my boys, so I can’t always make it to ‘Back to School’ nights, and we don’t have a working computer in our home. My sons’ teachers are always sending emails asking to talk to me about their grades, but I only get them once a week if I go to the library. I’ll just keep relying on my boys to keep me updated on any major news.”
Profiled Example: Fresno Unified School District
As a large urban school district serving areas of high poverty and diversity, Fresno USD recognized that their parent engagement strategies did not effectively reach all parents in the district. Fresno USD created Parent University, a culturally sensitive approach to parent education to support all parents in engaging in their child’s academic, college, and career journeys.
Want more DEIJ best practices for your institution?
Visit EAB's Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Resource Center for a library of best practice research, tools, and insights dedicated to helping college and university leaders cultivate diversity, foster inclusion, promote equity, and fight for justice for their students, faculty, staff, and communities.