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SFUSD Responds to Hate and Intolerance in Schools

You may have missed it, but last year, as one of their final acts as of 2016, Commissioners Matt Haney and Shamann Walton proposed an important resolution calling on the superintendent to define clear protocols for schools in addressing hate and bias in our schools, and provide more support for site staff in creating safe and inclusive learning environments for all students.

While this is a continuation of the district’s ongoing work since it outlined “access and equity” as one of the three main goals of its Strategic Plan, many years ago, it is also a response to the rise in hate speech and bias related incidents being witnessed in our schools across our nation as a result of Trump’s election.

Thank you to all our Board members for unanimously approving this important resolution!

The work continues…

As anyone involved in social justice work knows, this work is ongoing. No system (or person) will ever be perfect. The work will never stop…

Nonetheless, I am hopeful we can move farther “beyond the talk” (as the district proposed many years ago) to tangible, measurable actions, that will ensure all our kids and families feel they are valued and respected members of our school communities. Even though we have come a long way in this regard, since I first became an educator over 20 years ago, there is still much work to be done.

As the Interim Superintendent, Myong Leigh, wrote in a letter to the SFUSD community last fall:

“We believe strongly in social justice, which means we fight against systemic oppression. We stand up for those who are vulnerable and hope others will do so for us when we need them. We put students’ needs first, and we will protect them now.”

(Download the message in English (Español | 中文| عربيTagalog | Tiếng Việt)

It will “take a village” as the African saying goes to ensure this resolution is fully implemented so all children, and especially our most marginalized, attend schools that make them feel like valued and visible members of their learning communities. I look forward to working with SFUSD commissioners, the superintendent, community leaders, and site and district staff to support, monitor and advocate for this important work.

Read it, share it, live it.

In order for us to hold the district “accountable” (another district goal!) in this important work, I’ve painstakingly taken the time to write down the resolution as it was read at the December 14, 2016 Board of Education meeting. (Commissioners, if there are errors, please correct me and I’ll update ASAP!)

Please take the time to read the resolution, and share it with other parents and educators in your community. Post it on family email forums. Print it out and bring it to your school’s next Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or School Site Council (SSC) or English Language Learner (ELAC) meeting. (I am currently reaching out to district leadership to see if the district will help in translation and dissemination of key aspects of this resolution. Stay tuned.)

As we stare down the barrel of an impending Trump presidency, it is easy to feel hopeless and overwhelmed. In the coming months, we many not be able to see immediate changes in Washington D.C. Nonetheless, individual parents, educators and community members CAN make meaningful change in our nation’s schools in 2017. It’s time to step up and be the change. Let’s make sure all our kids go to welcoming, inclusive schools free from hate, bias and bigotry.

Resolution in Support of Inclusive Schools that Celebrate Diversity and Respect People of All Identities.

(Transcription of Item Q: Introduction of Proposals for Immediate Action and Notice of Suspension of Board Rules from the December 14, 2016 Board of Education meeting. Click here to watch the video which starts at 4:18:00.)

WHEREAS: The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) is committed to the emotional, social and physical wellbeing of all our students staff and families; and

WHEREAS: SFUSD is a community that celebrates our diversity and believes it the greatest strength of our community. We are committed to reducing prejudice and enhancing understanding between individuals and groups within our schools; and

WHEREAS: In recent months there has been is a rise in reported hate crimes and bias related incidents in schools, including in SFUSD; and

WHEREAS: The Southern Poverty Law Center recently released a survey of over 2,000 K-12 teachers nationwide wide which showed a significant increase in anti-muslim or anti-immigrant sentiment in particular; and

WHEREAS: The Board of Education expresses deep concern about these trends and believes that our schools and school district must take immediate action in addressing any incidence of hatred or intolerance in our schools based on race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, language, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability status, age, immigration history, economic means or any other identity; and

WHEREAS: Many staff and leaders throughout SFUSD schools and departments are taking commendable actions to support students and foster climates that celebrate diversity, inclusion and respect for all people of all identities; and

WHEREAS: Extensive resources, curriculum, materials and best practices are available to assist schools in promoting such positive cultural and responding to acts of intolerance and hatred, and

WHEREAS: SFUSD implementation of our Safe and Supportive Schools Initiative trains school communities to engage students and all members the community in specifically defining what it means to be safe, respectful and responsible as the foundation of promoting positive prosocial learning environments where all students feel safe, a sense of belonging and are valued by the school community, and

WHEREAS: the District’s Restorative Practices program holds at its core the building and sustaining of positive relationships, and schools with the most appropriate and consistent implementation of Restorative Practices are experiencing positive benefits such as safer and more caring environments, a greater commitment by everyone to take the time to listen to one another, a reduction in bullying and [inaudible} interpersonal relationships, and a greater awareness of the connectedness of young people and their need to belong and feel valued by their peers and significant adults in their communities, and

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: The Board of Education calls on the Superintendent to develop and/or strengthen clear protocols for how to report and respond to acts of intolerance and bias related incidents. Where appropriate these protocols should be integrated into our Safe and Supportive Schools Policy.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: The Board of Education calls on schools to ensure accountability for any acts of hatred in our schools, including the use of Restorative Practice and opportunities for dialogue and healing; and

FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED: SFUSD will make curriculum, resources and materials available to schools to build supportive school environments, free of intolerance, bias and prejudice, and

FINALLY BE IT RESOLVED: The Board of Education urges school site leaders to take proactive steps such as holding school wide assemblies, partnering with student government and student leaders, implementing school wide curriculum and setting clear standards for behavior to ensure that we address intolerance and prejudice within our school communities.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know, I’m definitely not done talking about this. Stay tuned for more ways to support this important work…

How will you support, monitor and advocate for safe, welcoming and inclusive schools for all our kids, and especially those from our most marginalized communities?

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