Director of Office of Equal Opportunity draws on his own experiences with discriminationSep 15, 2022 02:03PM ● By Becky Ginos
Ken Auld was recently appointed as the new Davis School District Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity, a position created as part of the DOJ settlement. Auld dealt with racism and discrimination in his own education. Photo by Roger V. Tuttle
FARMINGTON—When Ken Auld was a senior in high school his teacher walked around the room and predicted what everyone would do with their life. When he got to Auld, he said the best thing he’d do is work in a factory or go into the military.
“That felt like I’d been kicked in the gut,” said Auld. “To think he thought so low of me and that I’d never make it to college. It was a hard hurdle because I’d had no positive experiences in school and then to have a teacher say that.”
Auld started later in life to go to college because he still believed he was not good in school. “Then I had a professor at Weber State who was African American and he told me ‘you can do this,’” said Auld. “This was the first educator who thought I could be successful. He was great. On the first day he met with me and helped me have the confidence that I could do anything. Education became an avenue for me.”
Now Auld has two master’s degrees and is starting a PhD program in Administrative Leadership. He was recently appointed as the Davis School District Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity, a position created as part of the settlement with the Department of Justice.
“It’s been challenging but exciting,” he said. “It’s a great experience starting a new office and trying to have training for administrators. The settlement said all 10,000 employees in the district need to be trained.”
It’s been a lot of work, said Auld. “The superintendency has helped provide training to address discrimination and report it. It’s critical that they know what harassment and discrimination are so they know it when they hear it or see it.”
The role of his office is to investigate complaints of discrimination or harassment and determine whether district policy has been violated, he said. “We address their concerns and communicate with the parents and students. If we determine there has been a violation we decide how to work through that and how we can change it in the future so that students of a protected class are not feeling unwanted in school.”
The district has created the HDRS (Harassment, Discrimination Reporting System) to take complaints. “Our goal is to hear complaints and react to that complaint so people feel like they’ve been heard,” Auld said. “The system is up and running. We receive complaints every day of harassment and discrimination. We go over those and my role is to assign them to an investigator to determine whether policy has been violated or not violated. I receive a report of their findings and recommendations moving forward.”
Auld has had he own experiences with discrimination. “I dealt with racism and discrimination in education,” he said. “I never went to the same school for more than two years. We were impoverished and my mom moved where we could afford. I felt isolated because there were only a few kids of color at school.”
His fourth grade teacher Mr. Ford was the only African American teacher he’d had. “He had this cabinet with a mirror,” said Auld. “He had this big fro and he’d comb it then splash on cologne. I didn’t put it together until I was an adult and I was putting on cologne to smell good. I thought holy smokes 40 years later and he had an impact on my vision about what an African American teacher could have. He had a huge impact on me that I didn’t realize until I became an adult teacher.”
Auld wants teachers to look at everyone through the lens of equity. “Sometimes the way they handle a situation impacts students negatively,” he said. “We want to make sure the actions we take in the district meet the needs of every kid.”
He hopes his office will be a support to parents and families. “It’s a success if parents feel they can come to us and meet the needs of a diverse population,” said Auld. “We don’t want teachers to look at us as the boogeyman and be scared when we walk in the building. We’re here to help them not place labels on people. Then we decide what steps we need to take to correct that to ensure every child comes to school to have a learning experience and to feel safe.”λ