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Bangor schools, UMaine collaborate to offer inclusion, equity courses to educators

The University of Maine will lead courses for teachers to identify disparities in Bangor schools and create a sense of belonging for all students.

BANGOR, Maine — The Bangor School Department is partnering with the University of Maine's College of Education and Human Development in an effort to make Bangor schools more inclusive to students from all backgrounds.

The diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging partnership involves a series of three courses for Bangor educators that focus on identifying racial disparities, implicit bias, and how schools can be more equitable and inclusive.

This comes after years of concern about racism and inequity in Bangor schools. In 2020, a school department report confirmed acts of racism after two students alleged experiences of racial discrimination at Bangor High School.

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The first course began Monday night, with 13 teachers enrolled, and will be held throughout the fall semester, followed by two additional courses in the spring and summer.

"Inclusion and belonging and equity are values that are of utmost importance here in Bangor, and we want to make sure that this isn't just what we're saying, but what we're actively practicing," Bangor School Department's Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Coordinator, Dana Carver-Bialer, said.

The courses will gather student data and analyze disparities within the school district like race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religion, disability. They will conduct a climate survey and have focus groups for teachers, students, and staff to share experiences and ways the department can improve.

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Bangor Superintendent James Tager said this action to make schools more inclusive is more important than ever.

"If not now, when?" Tager said. "I don't think there is ever a time that we should wait. We are embracing this work."

The goal of the partnership, according to Carver-Bialer, is to shift the thought from tolerating people's differences to celebrating differences.

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