School boards in action: Equity takes center stage

Up and down California, local educational agency boards are working tirelessly to make sure students can safely return to campus as quickly as possible in areas that are still in distance learning, and have everything they need to be academically, social-emotionally and physically supported — no matter which mode of learning they are in.

School district and county boards of education have worked tirelessly in the past year to ensure that children had equitable access to meals, mental and physical health resources, academic support and the technology and internet connectivity they needed to learn. Still, as evidenced by remaining opportunity gaps and an extreme spike in anti-Asian hate crimes attributed to the pandemic, there is always more that needs to be done.

As usual, governance teams are not shying away for tackling these myriad issues.

A week before rallies were held across Southern California to combat spike in hate crimes against Asian Americans, the Glendale Unified School District adopted a resolution on March 9 condemning acts of racism, hate and xenophobia against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Davis Joint USD passed its own resolution condemning and combating racism, xenophobia and intolerance against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders on March 5.

On March 16, the Los Angeles County Office of Education posted resources for educators to help them combat anti-Asian discrimination and racism in the classroom that include lesson plans, guidelines and support to facilitate classroom discussion and more.

An analysis released this week by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino of hate crimes in 16 of America’s largest cities found that while such crimes in 2020 decreased overall by 7 percent, those targeting Asian people rose by nearly 150 percent. Experts cited the repeated elevation of the “China virus” rhetoric as having played a part in fostering hate this past year, as well as a well-documented history of anti-Asian bigotry in the United States well before the presence of COVID-19.

On March 11, Vista USD held a Schoolboard Equity Workshop: Redefining Student Success with an Equity Lens, co-led by Nicole Anderson. Anderson was the facilitator of CSBA’s Equity Network and is the founder and CEO of Nicole Anderson and Associates Consulting, LLC, which uses a unique systemic approach to providing professional development that serves the needs of educators and builds the capacity of educational leaders in order to close educational equity gaps in the school system.

Later this month, San Diego COE’s equity department is hosting a three-part series that explores teacher identity, what it means to leverage social-emotional learning in anti-racist teaching and how it can help create an assets-based classroom culture where students are valued for their unique strengths.

For some, equity can look like simply meeting students and families where they are. Sacramento COE Vice President Karina Talamantes said that being bilingual has helped her ease the fear and anxiety of vaccinations for the Latino community during a March 11 vaccine clinic. “My joke of the day was ‘es tu pasaporte para dar abrazos’ after they received their vaccination card,” she tweeted (‘es tu pasaporte para dar abrazos’ essentially translates to ‘it’s your passport to give hugs.’).

Lindsay USD on March 12 launched its new Healthy Lindsay website. The program offers chronic disease and mental wellness self-management services to Lindsay and other surrounding communities, including classes, topics related to chronic disease, nutrition education and more. The Healthy Lindsay-Healthy Community Program is a collaboration between The Lindsay Family Resource, Kaweah Delta Community Outreach Department, the Lindsay District Hospital and other organizations.

In that same spirit of collaboration, Long Beach firefighters worked with Long Beach USD to administer COVID-19 vaccines to teachers at the district’s Washington Middle School on March 15.