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Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr
Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cultural Awareness in PSD
Posted on 01/19/2021
Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cultural Awareness in PSD

This month we remember and celebrate civil rights activist, Martin Luther King, Jr.  Puyallup School District honors his achievements, making equity and inclusion a top priority the past several years creating environments of respect and learning that inspire students to reach their full potential.

We have an intentional focus on building awareness, increasing knowledge, developing skills, and promoting advocacy for cultural awareness.  Racial injustice creates disparities in education and limits our ability to thrive as a healthy community.  Puyallup School District has made an intentional effort to:  

Hire staff representative of our student population
Provide professional learning focused on equity and social justice
Create ‘safe zone’ spaces for staff and students


In 2016, the District developed a plan that was focused on implementing systemic change.  We listened as students and community members shared powerful, authentic, and personal experiences around racial injustice.  By uncovering personal biases, staff learned how to have courageous conversations about race with the following agreements: (1) stay engaged, (2) experience discomfort, (3) speak your truth, (4) expect and accept nonclosure, (5) maintain a earning stance & remain open to new things, and (6) refrain from pivoting to other “-isms.  As a result of this learning, this conversation framework is actively used during professional learning throughout the district.   


High quality professional learning for staff focused on equity and social justice results in school leaders setting meaningful equity goals with staff which, in turn, helps educate students A focus on equity and social justice creates a cultural competency that impacts discipline, enrollment in programs, and overall student achievement.  


Purposeful and intentional relationship building also helps counter stereotypesStaff and students are encouraged to form relationships with people who identify differently than them with the goal of countering stereotypes by changing hearts and minds.  Administrative Equity Walks were conducted to determine if professional learning for staff focused on equity and social justice was, in fact, transferring to schools and classrooms at large.  


Our district has two distinct and comprehensive nondiscrimination policies. Policy 3210, focuses on the equal and educational opportunity and treatment for all students.  Policy 3211 specifically recognizes the importance of an inclusive approach to supporting transgender students. We are proud of our policy work focused on nondiscriminatory practices and inclusivity. 


As a result of this work, ‘Safe Zones’ were created that represent a safe space for students to retreat to if they are experiencing distress caused from harassment, intimidation and/or bullying.  Over 60 employees in our secondary schools have been trained on this support model and consequently proudly display their Safe Zone sign on classroom and office doors.

Racism and inequality affect everyone who are marginalized, particularly our communities of color, and perpetuates division. We continue to work with urgency and intentionality to drive critical changes in our system, deepening our work in culturally responsive practices.  Our schools are environments of respect and learning for every child, teaching students to advocate for their right to be treated with kindness and compassion.  Our work is ongoing and our goal is that our systems will continue to reflect equity and justice in schools.