By Shrida Pandey, Online News Editor
// As demonstrations protesting the murder of George Floyd spread all throughout the nation, multiple videos of students from Acalanes Union High School District (AUHSD) using various racial slurs and stereotyping of minorities surfaced. Under rising pressure for more education about racism and inequality in schools, AUHSD implemented a new curriculum to teach students about race and racial equity.
Acalanes High School students participated in the first two out of five lessons in an ongoing curriculum about race and equity this week to learn more about the inequalities that people of color face.
The district created the curriculum with Dr. Lori Watson, a racial equity and social justice facilitator, along with input from students and teachers.
“The racial equity lessons were created because, given our current national landscape, we can’t continue to ignore conversations about race. [It’s] been our norm [in our] society and in the school district to pretend that race doesn’t matter and that racism doesn’t exist,” Watson said.
The lessons took place in students’ Academy cohort groups, aiming to discuss and create an understanding of race and identity. During the first two sessions, staff and students discussed different prompts on Zoom. Afterward, students used Canvas to write reflections and learn more about the curriculum.
“These are five very short, very foundational lessons, but they do encourage the opportunity for people to be really introspective about their own racial identity and experiences in this world and in AUHSD,” Watson said.
Acalanes Principal Travis Bell encouraged parents to be involved in these lessons as well.
“I wanted to share an outline of today’s lesson along with tomorrow’s cohort lesson so that [parents] can engage at home with [their] student on their learnings and hopefully we can, collectively as a community, work towards racial equity and a more inclusive campus,” Bell said in an email to parents elaborating on the new curriculum.
Students met the first two sessions with positive reactions.
“The racial equity training was helpful and gave me new insight into race and why it is important to learn about. It made me realize how much work we have left to create a safe and accepting society, but it was a good start to a never-ending topic,” junior Stella Bobrowsky said.
However, some students questioned the overall effect the sessions would have.
“I feel like the [first] lessons were good because of the activities and reflecting on ourselves to how we perceive racism in America, but all in all, the curriculum did not cover much on racism and wasn’t that impactful,” junior Caroline Crossland said.
The online nature of the lessons also impacted the effectiveness of the curriculum for students.
“I felt like it was better online because it is harder for students to distract each other. I feel like it’s helpfulness is dependent on what teacher is teaching it and if they are proficient with technology and online teaching. For me, that happened to be the case so it worked out well,” junior Kyra Ariker said.
Overall, many students hope that these new sessions will be a step in the right direction towards creating a more inclusive campus.
“I think the racial equity modules are a good start for the school. In order for them to be effective, they will have to continue throughout the school year and progress as students level up to the following grades,” senior Madison Payne said.