“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. ” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Talking Points for the FSD Board Meeting on the topic of Resolution #19/20-21

Background Info:

In response to the Resolution #19/20-21 “Supporting Our Black Community and Standing Against Racial Injustice”, passed by the Fullerton School District Board on June 25, 2020, the FS District sent out a survey to parents and guardians in late October 2020. The email invitation told parents that the district, “would like to learn more about your student’s experiences regarding diversity and cultural awareness within our schools. Your input on this survey will increase our understanding of parent experiences in the district.”

While we appreciate the District’s efforts to broadly survey parents and guardians, we have concerns about the approach and methodology. As a reminder, the aim of the original Board Resolution was to “improve the understanding of biases and anti-Black racism and to proclaim the lives of Black students matter” and to “acknowledge and address . . . instances of racism and anti-Blackness” in the nation and in our communities. The survey did not reflect those goals. We hope the following points will provide a helpful context for interpreting the survey data, and for understanding its shortcomings:

School site concerns vs. District-level concerns:

The survey was written in a way that made it difficult for respondents to distinguish between the FSD district, the FSD board, and school site experiences. Terms like “school,” “school community,” “the district,” and “learning environment” were used, but not defined.

While individual teachers and school site administrators may be doing an exceptional job at valuing, teaching, and honoring diverse perspectives and cultures, nearly half of the parents believe the district can do better to set the standards and model this positive behavior. It is meaningful that 44.86% of respondents said they neither agree or disagree, or strongly disagreed when asked if they are satisfied with the district’s approach in teaching about diverse perspectives and cultures.

Given that the Board Resolution is asking for racism to be addressed at the district level (where curriculum is approved and mandated), it is important to distinguish for parents, between what is the responsibility of individual school sites and what is the responsibility of the district.

Interpersonal relationships vs. Systemic racism:

The survey questions ask respondents to focus on their individual experiences rather than the broader curriculum and school system, and avoid mentioning race and racism entirely; for example, questions like “Your children are provided learning environments in which they are respected?” and, “Your children feel that their cultural heritage/experiences are valued in the school community?” present racism as an individual problem rather than a systemic one.

In this way, the survey seems only interested in confirming that the district does not have a racism problem and that constituents within the district are nice to one another. The survey fails to ask the most important question, which is whether the school district is and should be making the bold steps and doing the hard work of becoming anti-racist. Instead of including “I am satisfied with the district’s approach in teaching diverse perspectives and cultures” the survey could have more effectively included statements like “I am satisfied with the district’s approach to teaching about racism and social justice.”

Children/Students not included:

It is important to keep in mind that these questions were answered primarily by parents on their children’s behalf and FSD students themselves were not surveyed. FSD students’ experiences and perspectives may be different than what their parents/guardians report and we need to give them the opportunity to share their own voices. A well-designed research or listening activity should be conducted with FSD students (1st -8th grade) for a truly representative response.

 

Talking Points & Recommendations to Use When Reaching out to the Board

We suggest choosing 1-2 recommendations that resonate most for you, putting them into your own words, and writing a short personal email to Board Members or submitting public comment.

As the Board and District move toward more concrete action, we would like to reiterate our recommendations to ensure that the district is explicitly addressing structural and institutional racism that may exist in the classroom, FSD policies, and society as a whole:

 

  • Do not lose sight of the intention of the June 25 resolution, “to improve the understanding of biases and anti-Black racism and to proclaim the lives of Black students matter.” The listening tour and parents survey did not get at the heart of the issue nor assess the degree to which the district is actively pursuing anti-racist curricula, training, and culture.
  • Respond to the FSD Survey and listening tour comments and reports of experiences of racism, with action and commitment to do better.
  • Conduct an audit by expert professionals, to take stock of the districts efforts to confront racism, and the degree to which the district is systematically implementing the 2016 History–Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (HSS Standards). (It appears the FSD’s History/Social Studies textbooks and curriculum (and teacher training) are outdated and do not reflect current California History/Social Science standards).
  • Ensure parents have access to the 2016 HSS California standards and curricula so that they can become aware and comfortable with what their students are learning, and teach their own family values as a complement to the school.
  • Prioritize funding for diverse literature in the classroom and ensure class activities like read aloud books, plays, research projects, etc. represent diverse voices and perspectives.
  • Building on the 2016 HSS standards, utilize curricula that examines the history of systemic racism and white supremacy to disrupt systemic injustice in our society. Hire experts to train and coach teachers and administrators on anti-racist approaches. Teach students critical thinking skills to address modern inequalities and work towards a more just society.
  • Move beyond occasional cultural celebrations, holidays and heroes to integrate diverse and inclusive curricula. A “heroes and holidays” approach to cultural celebration is not supported by research in the field, lacks academic rigor, fails to address racial equity, and does not reflect current CA History/Social Science requirements.
  • Recognize that racist systems and ideas can be reinforced unintentionally by well-meaning people who are not racist themselves. FSD school system’s policies and procedures, curricula and culture can be anti-black and reinforce white supremacy and injustice without meaning to, if not examined. Therefore, regard teaching anti-racism and social justice as benign and necessary, rather than polarizing and political. The community looks to the district for leadership on educational policy and research, state and national curriculum standards and best practices; as leaders, they have the power to show our community that an anti-racist and social justice curriculum is positive and enriching, rather than controversial.
  • Establish a task force that includes cabinet/VP level District administrators, teachers, and principals, as well as experts in ethnic studies and anti-racist/multicultural curriculum and policy, to ensure strong implementation plans and accountability for success. Monitor progress against implementation plans and through assessment of student outcomes.

BE BRAVE:

The FSD District Administrators and Board need to decide if they are to be responsive to the desires (and fears) of parents, or bold leaders that will shape the minds and hearts of Fullerton students. Our country continues to shirk the painful and necessary actions needed to address white supremacy and work to eliminate racial and gender inequality in our society. Niceness and the status quo will not get us there. Our schools can be a place where children learn, not only the good and bad of our history, but the wisdom earned in the fight towards justice, and the methods needed to build a more just society. We need bold leaders to take on this challenge for the sake of the beloved community.