By Liam McGlynn, News Editor
// Since the death of George Floyd, organizations across the country have decided to use this moment of reckoning with racial inequity and systemic racism as a catalyst to institute systematic policy changes.
During Wednesday’s Acalanes Union High School District (AUHSD) Governing Board meeting, AUHSD attempted to take a step forward in the process of making the district a safer place for students of color when Associate Superintendent Amy McNamara announced the district’s plan to address racial issues.
Two weeks after a video featuring Campolindo High School students aggressively using the n-word was released on social media, the Governing Board aimed to provide a plan to combat racial inequity.
McNamara acknowledges that racism in the school district is a serious issue and needs to be addressed.
“I think [racism] is very pervasive. I think that we have a problem with racism in the district and we have a lot of work to do to address it in the schools,” McNamara said in an interview with Blueprint.
AUHSD will immediately implement student and staff meetings at all schools, conduct a Campolindo Diversity and Inclusion Parent meeting, and host district meetings with equity leaders.
Additionally, the district intends to respond to the community’s demand that the district addresses racism directly and with all students, continues equi-team meetings, trains all staff by 2021, implements onsite coaches, and continues re-examining core curriculum, especially social studies. AUHSD also wants to expand enrollment in new classes such as the Introduction to Ethnic Studies and Deconstructing Race courses, host parent education nights focused on the topic of race, continue its efforts to diversify staff, and develop statistics for student achievement and school experience.
In the future, the administration plans on engaging students in conversations around race and identity, developing district-wide parent leadership focused on equity and campus climate, re-examining school mission statements, and developing an AUHSD Racial Equity Policy. The district also plans to develop an n-word protocol, continue with curriculum changes, institute site coaching and student leadership work, and train staff with Beyond Diversity.
McNamara expressed that the district is also working with students and staff to create tailored responses for each school.
“What we’ve proposed is not the exclusive limited plan that we’re doing. Every site is coming up with their own action plans and I support that,” McNamara said. “Our district office will continue to support what the sites want to do.”
Some students of color at Acalanes are skeptical of the district’s proposals.
“This is a joke. Most of the things listed, they promised the Black Student Union last year, and even with these guidelines and what not, no one wants to act, especially administrators,” rising junior Loic Windfuhr-Durand said to Blueprint.
Despite the district’s interest in instigating change, some students question the district’s true intentions.
“I feel like most of what’s been doing involving race has only been done to try and silence students of color,” former Black Student Union (BSU) President and class of 2020 graduate Jaedyn Boynton said to Blueprint. “I don’t think they are doing enough to try and combat racism because they are still giving us the same excuse when we demand more diverse education and consequences for racist students and teachers.”
Anthony Severo, the father of a former Acalanes student, voiced his disappointment during public comment with how the Acalanes and AUHSD administrations responded to the racism his son suffered while attending Acalanes.
“When my son experienced racial issues, I came to [AUHSD administration] with a collaborative attitude. I was certain [they] would take care of the issue and ensure that my son was protected. Instead, [they] dismissed, denied, and deflected,” Severo said at the meeting.
Similar to Severo’s son, Boynton experienced racism during her time at Acalanes and noted that the administration didn’t confront the issue.
“For each situation, I went to the administration and they told me the same thing: ‘what would you like to see happen?’. This has got to be the most frustrating question because it is not my job to know what the consequences should be. Most of these acts have ended in a forced apology and that’s it,” Boynton said.
McNamara acknowledges that there is a lot more work to be done and said that the goals for this new plan is more ambitious than previous efforts.
“The steps we’ve taken have been primarily to create safe spaces with the diversity summits and the BSUs at each site create safer spaces for students of color,” McNamara said. “What we haven’t done and need to start doing is really addressing every student around the need to address racism and to teach an anti-racist curriculum to all students.”
Some students noted that they wanted AUHSD to listen and amplify the voices of students and staff of color.
“I feel if they put Black education as part of the curriculum and make students learn about it like they do white history, then students would be less ignorant,” Boynton said. “In order for change to really happen in the AUHSD, administration has to start listening to their Black students and staff.”
In addition to the student and parent stories, many speakers pleaded for the district’s support in providing a safe place for students of color.
“What an opportunity; a moment to show the world what building a healthy example of inclusion and belonging can look like in a predominantly white, affluent community,” community member Narissa Bogan said in a public comment to the Board. “I believe that we can agree that it takes a village to raise a healthy child. Who will look out for our Black and Brown children? Who will protect us?”
Click here to view the Board’s slides on equity.