The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

District 7 Prioritizes Diversity, Equity, Inclusion


Among several changes taking place throughout District 7 schools, the Board of Education recently approved a new one: the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative.

The DEI initiative’s purpose, introduced to the student body on the first day of school, is to build a more inclusive school community.

DEI initiatives initially began with affirmative action and equal employment legislation, then later spread throughout universities and corporations. The initiative surged post-2020, when the murder of George Floyd sparked anti-racist campaigns nationwide.

Spearheading the effort is the District’s Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Dr. Cornelia Smith. Dr. Smith is using her third year on the board to push the DEI Initiative, one she’s been moving toward since her induction.

“There was an incident at Edwardsville High School in 2019 that had some racial implications and made the news,” Dr. Smith said. “At the time of the incident, I was a principal at Leclaire School. When the position was created, I expressed interest and was assigned [it].”

The initiative does not just begin with Dr. Smith, though. Students can expect to see a new face on campus, acting as a DEI representative at each school. The representative will work with students and teachers alike to “engage in conversations about concerns and experiences they have,” Dr. Smith said.

The initiative begins with providing implicit bias training for staff, which includes recalibrating cognitive mindsets to forget stereotypes. The initiative will also “assist school administrators with investigations involving harassment and bullying, and developing Employee Support Groups for staff,” Dr. Smith said.

Students and parents were recently informed about one of the ventures of the initiative, the Safe2SpeakUp app.

“… students and parents now have the opportunity to anonymously report incidents of bullying on the district’s website through Safe2SpeakUp,” Dr. Smith said. “We are serious about addressing the issues that many times students are not comfortable talking about.”

The app provides an opportunity for students to discuss discriminatory interactions they’ve experienced or witnessed but have previously struggled to speak up on.

“[The jokes] aren’t always about the color of your skin, sometimes they’re making fun of people’s disabilities and looks. It can be funny in the moment, but sometimes it hurts,” sophomore Isabella Fuentes said.

According to The Intelligencer, a number of parents recently spoke at a school board meeting to express their frustration with the district’s ability to address racial injustice within the school community.

The parents urged the board members to take immediate action and provided a list of asks, ranging from defining racial harassment to enforcing a zero-tolerance policy for racial harassment.

Students at EHS seem to believe this is the optimal decision, as well.

“While EHS is a progressive school and Illinois schools tend to be more forward in their efforts to make schools more diverse and accepting, we can always do better,” junior Tye Lewis said. “I’ve experienced my fair share of negativity and exclusion for the color of my skin and how I carry myself, even within spaces that are deemed ‘inclusive’.”

Dr. Smith and district leadership have pushed the DEI initiative to the top of their agendas, considering discrimination is an issue worldwide.

“I think [the initiative] is necessary everywhere because everywhere you will find groups who feel as though they don’t have a voice and don’t belong,” Dr. Smith said. “In the end, my hope is to see an increased sense of belonging among all of our students, with a greater understanding and appreciation for each other.”

About the Contributor
Veda Kommineni
Veda Kommineni, Staff Writer
Veda Kommineni is a first-year journalism student but has spent three years on the yearbook staff. Outside of class, Veda plays varsity tennis for Edwardsville, does robotics, and is the editor-in-chief- of the yearbook. Her favorite classes have always been relating to literature, and she can't wait to pursue journalism.