The Board of Supervisors in El Dorado County, California, is thinking about relaxing the requirement that some people take unconscious bias training. According to the National Institutes of Health, “implicit prejudice” occurs when an individual’s behavior is skewed in favour of, or against, a certain person or group.
Although proponents of maintaining the requirement stress the need for the training, detractors point out that it has resulted in resignations and made it difficult to recruit new employees. Two years after mandating implicit bias training for all board-appointed members of El Dorado County committees, commissions, and boards, county supervisors proposed eliminating the mandate.
“If a member of a commission refuses to undergo training, would they be removed from their position? To my mind, that’s going a bit too far” Manager Lori Parlin remarked.
Due to the low compliance rate (only 67%) and the lack of enforcement measures, Parlin and Chair Wendy Thomas have advocated for repealing the mandate.
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“We’re not saying this doesn’t have value because it does. I think we’ve all been through it and it’s helpful,” Thomas said. “It does have value. That’s not what I’m saying here on this. I’m saying there’s challenges with the way we implemented this.”
The purpose of the training is to raise participants’ consciousness of their inherent, unconscious biases. The news that the county was considering abolishing it came as a surprise to some locals. “That’s part of the heritage of this town. We learn from diversity. We learn from getting together. “
Kirk Smith, a local speaker at Tuesday’s Board of County Supervisors meeting in Placerville, made the statement in question. The county claims there have been three iterations of the training since it was first introduced. The first one lasted for hours.
That’s the interpretation Planning Commission member for District 3, Kris Payne.
“I thought when I was taking it, ‘This isn’t me. It’s not the way I act.’ So, every time somebody said, ‘You are this way,’ I just got upset because, no, I’m not that way,” Payne said. “I took it as a form of indoctrination.”
Please take note that all of the information above was sourced from WCRA 3.
Kate Campbell-Craven, a local resident, came to the board meeting for a different reason but stayed after learning what the supervisors were debating. “I think if it’s done well and people understand the reason for it, that it can be very effective,” Campbell-Craven said. “If there were problems, then maybe we need to revamp how we’re doing it, but just to discard it is not appropriate.”
In the end, managers discussed capping the number of required commissions or committees, setting a timeframe for completion, and imposing sanctions for noncompliance. The board of supervisors voted 4-1 to have county staff draught the text for new regulations and return it to the board for a second vote at a later date.
Parlin, the lone board member to vote against, reiterated his earlier position. A similar discussion took place a month ago when several board members voiced worries about the Human Rights Commission’s lack of clarity. Next month the board may have a vote on the matter.
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