The Fullerton School Board of Trustees will vote on June 23 to approve a resolution in support of Black Lives Matter and to encourage district-wide participation in the national Black Lives Matter At School Week, which was brought forward by Board President Jeanette Vazquez.
The resolution is as follows:
“A RESOLUTION of the Board of Trustees of the Fullerton School District to declare that the lives of Black students matter and that we encourage district-wide participation in the national Black Lives Matter At School Week from the start of Black History Month plus another week to be determined by the superintendent.
WHEREAS, in response to both currently and historically disparate treatment of African Americans, a nationwide movement has arisen to assert that Black Lives Matter; and
WHEREAS, a national movement has arisen to assert that Black Lives Matter on the campuses that serve all children; and
WHEREAS, the killing of unarmed Black men and women, including queer and trans persons of color, has left young people searching for answers to incredibly complicated and infuriating questions; and
WHEREAS, throughout our nation’s history, institutional and structural racism and injustice have led to deepening racial disparities across all sectors of society and have lasting negative consequences for our communities, cities, and nation; and
WHEREAS, historically, when Black people have fought for a more democratic society, the lives of all people have improved and, conversely, each time barriers to Black people’s potential have been erected, our whole society has suffered; and
WHEREAS, shouting loudly that “Black Lives Matter” does not negate our commitment to ALL of our students, but rather elevates Black students’ struggle to trust that our society values them, we must affirm that their lives, specifically, matter; and
WHEREAS, the problems of society are mirrored in schools, and these problems can only be fully addressed with a united effort of community and school coming together for the betterment of our students’ future; and
WHEREAS, numerous and diverse community groups, residents, and teachers wish to participate in the education, reflection, dialogue, and action in order to engage educational communities throughout Fullerton in activities that support the understandings and affirmations that underlie the Black Lives Matter Movement; and
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Fullerton School District Board of Trustees declares that the lives of our Black students matter, the lives of our Black families matter, the lives of our Black teachers and staff members matter, and that all Black lives matter
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Fullerton School District Board of Trustees urgently encourages participation district-wide in the Black Lives Matter At School Week AND in the first weeks of instruction of the 2020-2021 school year.”
The resolution was originally on the agenda at the June 9 meeting, and was discussed at some length then before being continued to June 23.
Here’s what happened:
At the June 9 meeting there were 60 public comments that had been submitted prior to the Board meeting (which was held Via Zoom). The vast majority of the comments were in support of the resolution.
President Vazquez made a motion to extend the usual public comment time to 60 minutes to let all the public comments be heard.
This motion failed with Trustees Beverly Berryman, Janny Meyer, and Hilda Sugarman voting no.
It should be noted that each trustee expressed support for a letter sent out by the district superintendent condemning racism, which can be read HERE. Also, the public comments had been given to each Board member prior to the meeting.
Trustee Meyer made a substitute motion to extend the public comment time to 30 minutes, and this passed.
The assistant superintendent proceeded to read aloud the first 30 public comments. Some of them included personal stories of FSD students, alumni, and parents about the discrimination they had faced in the district.
“My children continue to be the only Black children in their classes at Raymond,” wrote Sharnette M. Underdue. “Last year for Black History Month, we hosted a school assembly with an African storyteller because I advocated for it via the PTA. Because I did not say anything this year, it was once again ignored. There needs to be systemic change for this critical learning to take place at each school in the district.” Ms. Underdue also said that her daughter had been called a “monkey” at school.
“CSUF has less than 2% African American students and yet has a resource center, faculty/staff association, and a dedicated full-time staff to address the needs. [The resolution] is only asking for a week-long educational experience,” Underdue said.
Devon Moore wrote of her experiences as a biracial woman & former student of FSD:
1st grade: Repeatedly referred to as “Oreo girl” & “Chocolate milk” by students.
2nd grade: Repeatedly ridiculed for my natural hair by students.
4th grade: Told by the only Black educator I would have in my 13 years in the district, that I was, “not really Black” in front of the class.
5th grade: Called the N* word by a student; told by staff I could not be a “maiden” in Pirates of Penzance because they “would not know what to do with my hair.”
6th grade: Told by staff I could not be Martha Washington in the play 1776 because I was Black.
7th grade: Had my hair pulled so hard I was brought to the ground (all because the student thought my hair was fake).
“None of these instances of racist behavior were addressed or effectively dealt with. As such, the FSD failed to ensure a safe learning environment and did not provide proper education to the students and staff of the site. Today, as a parent of a biracial student in the district, I believe it is imperative that the resolution in support of Black Lives Matter in Schools be passed,” Moore wrote. “This is an important step in correcting past failures and creating healthy educative dialogues around race and racial injustice.”
After 30 minutes of public comments, President Vazquez asked that all 60 of the public comments be read aloud.
“I think that the public feels very strongly about this,” Vazquez said. “I think it’s important for the public’s comments and opinions to be presented in this public manner.”
Trustee Sugarman said that she felt “very disrespected” and “very manipulated, like I’m an evil person if I don’t extend [the time]…Because I really think that we need to get to our business.”
There were a number of other items on the agenda.
“I might be willing to listen to the rest of them, but then I would want to table the motion until another meeting,” Trustee Meyer said. “So, if we want to listen to all the comments and then postpone the motion, we could do that. I don’t think we have time for both.”
Trustee Aaruni Thakur offered to table some other items he had requested in order to “help clear out some time.”
Trustee Berryman said, “I don’t know how to say how frustrated I am right now because we voted on this once…We have been in this meeting for almost 5 hours and any time you start to go that long you start to lose your patience, and you lose what you’re trying to accomplish here, and so I am really frustrated.”
The motion to hear the rest of the comments aloud passed 3-0 (with Trustees Sugarman and Meyer abstaining)
Advocates and Allies
The Assistant Superintendent then proceeded to read the remaining comments, which took about 30 minutes. Again, the vast majority of them were in support of the resolution. Here are some more excerpts:
Ruthi Hanchett: “As a white American I am committed to teaching my children about race, justice, privilege, and the many contributions of Black Americans, as well as the sad history of racism and injustice that continues today. I have been pleased to see many of these issues covered by great teachers at school already, but I would love to see greater support and leadership from our district on this topic.”
Deniz & Anthony Fierro: “As parents of two Latinx children who attend Raymond and as an educator from Fullerton College I request that this resolution gets passed. This is not the time to be on the sidelines…We are watching. Do what’s right.”
Lana L. Dalley (faculty member at CSUF and a parent of children in the Fullerton School District): “I am pleased that the Resolution Proclaiming that Black Lives Matter encourages district-wide participation in the Black Lives Matter at School week and in the first weeks of the school year, and by acknowledging the very real ways that structural racism directly affects children and families in the district.”
April Brannon: “Thank you for your work toward equality and justice.”
Libby Frolichman: “It is imperative to adjust our teaching to include antiracist education in our curriculum. The bare minimum is to adopt the Black Lives Matter at School Week.”
Dr. Amy Novak, (CSUF): “Passing this resolution would be a first step in demonstrating commitment to Black students and their families…All our students deserve to see themselves reflected in their education.”
Jessie C. Jones: “I would like to HIGHLY support this resolution. Unfortunately, institutional and structural racism and injustice continue to deepen racial disparities across all sectors of society having lasting negative consequences for our communities, cities, and nation. As an educator for more than 30 years at CSUF, I understand the POWER of educational institutions in helping to shape the views of our children and youth.”
Olga L. Mejía: “My 2 daughters attend Rolling Hills Elementary School and I would like them to have this curriculum.”
The Garcia family of Fullerton: “We wholeheartedly support the idea of our children learning through the Black Lives Matter at School curriculum.”
Lucia Valdes (4th Grader at Raymond School): “I want Fullerton schools to participate in Black Lives Matter Week at School because it will make black and brown students feel appreciated and that they are not alone in this fight for justice. It means a lot to me because I have friends who are black and brown and I care about them.”
State Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva: “As a classroom teacher for over thirty years, I have witnessed systemic racism as it is in our schools with children of color being disciplined and expelled at a much higher rate than their peers. As educators and community leaders we must be committed to caring for each of our students, amplifying the voices of the unheard, and utilizing our tools and resources to dismantle hurtful structures and promote collective healing.”
A few public commenters expressed opposition to the resolution.
“While I want to assure you that I am equally horrified at the evidence of police brutality in the George Floyd death and in others, and stand strongly against any form of discrimination; I cannot support our school district utilizing a political movement as a method of teaching about diversity and inclusion,” wrote one commenter.
Clinton Mosley, a teacher at Nicolas Junior High, said “I don’t support the resolution as it is written right now. I am in support of a resolution that is committed to the civil rights message that started with the black community and continues on today—the message that all people have the right to freedom and equality regardless of race. That judgment should be about the content of my character and not about the color of my skin.”
“As a society, we cannot devolve to the state where we put more effort into branding entire swaths of the population as racist than we do solving real problems. Doing so promulgates a false narrative that does nothing to improve our nation’s culture and communities nor improve the standing of disenfranchised people,” wrote another commenter.
Following public comments, President Vazquez said that she drafted the resolution “from language from other school boards across the nation and organizations like Teaching Tolerance, which we have used in the past in our district.” She then reached out to Fullerton School District black alumni to get their input.
During the meeting, she asked for input from other Board members regarding any revisions they would like to make to the resolution.
Trustee Berryman expressed frustration that she had not been consulted prior to President Vazquez placing the item on the agenda.
Vazquez said that, as Board President, she is allowed to place items on the agenda, and that she was limited by the Brown Act to only speak with one other Board member prior to a meeting regarding agenda items.
Trustees Meyer and Sugarman pointed out potential errors with some dates in the resolution, which Trustee Thakur made a motion to correct.
President Vazquez made a motion to adopt the resolution (with the revisions by Thakur), and the motion was seconded by Thakur.
Trustee Meyer made an alternate motion to “table” the resolution, and just send the district letter, and this was seconded by Sugarman.
Thakur made a third alternate motion to continue the item to June 23, and this motion passed.