U-46 educators say social justice, racial equity begins in schools

Education is “the civil rights issue of our generation,” Elgin High School Principal Krystal Thomas said, quoting former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “And if you care about promoting opportunity and reducing inequity, the classroom is a great place to start,” she added.

Thomas and other Elgin Area School District U-46 high school principals recorded a YouTube video message to students and families in response to global #BlackLivesMatter protests against police brutality and racial injustice spurred by the May 25 killing of George Floyd.

Thomas said schools need to make changes in their own systems by reviewing policies and practices that perpetuate inequities, and closing achievement gaps.

“How well we prepare our students of color to succeed in college and careers matters,” she said. “Great teaching is about so much more than education. It is a daily fight for social justice.”

Reflecting diversity:

Students' cultures, lived history and backgrounds must be reflected in school curriculum, and diversity also is needed in those educating them, South Elgin High School Principal Brian Moran says in the video message.

In U-46, the state's second-largest school district, 71.7% of its 2,178 teachers are white, 23.9% are Hispanic, 1.8% are Black, and 1.5% are Asian. Meanwhile, Hispanics comprise 54.9% of the district's 38,395 students, followed by 26% whites, 8.3% Asians, 6.3% Blacks, and 3.4% of two or more races, according to the 2019 Illinois School Report Card.

“Our students deserve to learn how their cultures have contributed to and shaped the society we live in today,” Moran said. “They deserve to look up and see teachers who look like them in their classrooms.”

COVID-19 testing:

West Chicago opens its first COVID-19 testing site this week at a mobile clinic to serve Latino communities disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.

The city has the second-highest number of cases - 758 - in DuPage County, after Addison's total of 807. Nearly 53% of its more than 26,800 residents is Latino, many of whom are essential workers in factories and nursing homes.

Starting Tuesday, VNA Health Care will operate the testing site at St. Andrew Lutheran Church, a multicultural parish, alleviating pressure on testing sites in Aurora, Elgin and Wheaton.

Testing hours are 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays in the church parking lot at Geneva and Prince Crossing roads. Testing is available by appointment only for anyone with and without COVID-19 symptoms. To get tested, call VNA at (630) 892-4355 or (847) 717-6455. VNA will provide pretest assessment and COVID-19 specimen at no cost for people without insurance.

Census panel:

Naperville's Complete Count Committee will host a Facebook Live panel discussion on the 2020 Census Thursday.

Panelists are Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico; U.S. Reps. Lauren Underwood and Bill Foster, both of Naperville, and Sean Casten of Downers Grove; state Sen. Laura Ellman of Naperville; Kashif Fakhruddin, president of the Islamic Center of Naperville; Bill Liu, chairman of Naperville's Chinese community outreach; and Marilyn Sanders, U.S. Census Bureau's Chicago regional director.

The discussion, moderated by Mark Rice, begins 6 p.m. on Facebook Live.

Mosques reopen:

Daily Herald Diversity Editor Madhu Krishnamurthy

Several suburban mosques, including those in Naperville, Villa Park, Wheaton and Willowbrook, are open for religious services to limited congregations with preregistration and requiring masks and temperature checks at the door.

The Mecca Center in Willowbrook, the Islamic Foundation of Villa Park, the Islamic Center of Wheaton, and the Islamic Center of Naperville are allowing a maximum of 100 people with online registration for Friday congregational prayers and on-site registration for the five daily prayers.

Leaders are following reopening guidelines issued by the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago's COVID-19 Task Force.

People who tested positive for COVID-19 or were exposed to someone who tested positive recently should stay home or wait three weeks after testing positive and are free of symptoms before attending services. Those exhibiting symptoms, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, nausea or diarrhea, or with underlying health conditions, such as asthma, chronic lung disease, diabetes, or heart disease, are urged not to attend prayer services, per the guidelines.

Celebrating Juneteenth:

Educators, students and community leaders Thursday participated in College of Lake County's virtual Juneteenth celebration of Black history and culture.

Juneteenth, or African American Independence Day, commemorates the end of slavery on June 19, 1865, when enslaved African Americans were freed after the Civil War. Though the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, many slaves did not learn of their freedom until 2½ years later.

CLC's nearly two-hour Facebook Live event featured speakers emphasizing what freedom and education means to Blacks, racial justice, police brutality toward Blacks and mental health concerns, and the need for voter registration. It included musical performances and poetry recitation by students and faculty.

“History has been painted through the lens of those in power and we take back that power by celebrating moments like Juneteenth,” said Leila Manthi, of Round Lake Beach, who is studying social work and helped organize the event. “By celebrating with us, you acknowledge the true history of America.”

Share stories, news and happenings from the suburban mosaic with Madhu Krishnamurthy at

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