Dear South Pasadena Unified School District School Board, Superintendent, District Staff, and SPUSD teachers,
Please establish the district as a safe haven for learners who will be shielded from ICE on or near campus and advance racial literacy and cultural competency by accelerating implementation of the ethnic studies, FAIR Act, multilingual education, and other parts of Ed Code scheduled to take effect in 2019 and beyond.
Why is this important?
Our city and our school board have both passed a resolution highlighting the values of civility, inclusion, and diversity in our community. The district must take the next step and affirm non-cooperation with ICE along the lines of this model resolution. In tandem with that resolution, SPUSD must accelerate the implementation of cultural competency curriculum to reduce ignorance and affirm a full spectrum of common histories.
Recently two bright, curious kids brought the entirety of a famous children’s illustrator’s work to the attention of their teacher and classmates. Unfortunately, Theodor (Dr. Seuss) Geisel’s early work depicted racial stereotypes and traded in blatant anti-black, anti-Japanese, and crudely caricatured Arab images. The children simply wanted to spark discussion of the entirety of the artist’s career. This is valuable information for all children to explore not just the children sharing the same race or ethnicity as the disparaging images Dr. Seuss drew.
We should embrace the children’s refreshing honesty and eagerness to discuss Dr. Seuss’ work. We can and do already create many spaces for children to explore other cultures and debate how people over time have grappled with difference. What the ethnic studies curriculum law (California Assembly Bill No. 2016) passed last year will do is create statewide standards so all school districts in the state can begin implementing this material K-12 in 2019.
We don’t have to wait for 2019. What South Pasadena Unified can do as an exemplary district is start now to seek out professional development for teachers, enlist experts in the community, and pass a resolution that all students take a high school course in ethnic studies as a graduation requirement. Students in the state’s biggest districts, LAUSD, SFUSD, SDUSD, and others, already have this high school ethnic studies graduation requirement in place. We can ensure that all elements of the FAIR Act, passed in 2012, are taught so that students understand who Harvey Milk was, or can address FDR’s polio with sensitivity.
The district has proven itself a leader previously. Parents in our diverse community helped establish an extremely popular dual language immersion program prior to the passage of the Multilingual Languages Act of 2016. Children who are heritage speakers and monolingual English speakers can both learn foreign languages at a young age.
We are poised to create resilient, bold, multifaceted learners in our district — global citizens who can treat others with sensitivity, deep understanding, and respect. It begins with providing a safe haven environment that nurtures and respects all by fulfilling the mission of universal free public education, and extends to a curriculum that is relevant, inclusive, and fosters mutuality. Let’s move quickly to seize that future for our kids.
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