California Educator

January / February 2017

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comfortable and supported in this country. We must start in our own backyard." State law requires school personnel to take immediate steps to intervene when they witness an act of discrimination, harassment, intimidation or bullying. Leveque, the GLBT Equity and Human Rights chair for SRVEA, believes educators sometimes ignore racial or homophobic slurs overheard in class or the hallway, and when they don't call stu- dents on it, they send the message that it's acceptable. "We keep running into the old adage that people are afraid to speak up, unwilling to take a stand or confront such insidious speech in the moment," he says. "We need to challenge our col- leagues to find their courage, check their own bias, and name the form of hate speech in the moment to the perpetrator." Shortly after the hate crimes occurred, new Superintendent Rick Schmitt wrote staff a letter. "The words exchanged on the campaign trail and the racist words written on bathroom walls cry out for how much we need to support, teach and listen to our children," he wrote. To that end, Schmitt said, he and the board of education would take steps to support cross-cultural understand- ing on campus. Actions that were taken or will be taken include: • SRVUSD created a task force of administrators, educators, stu- dents and other stakeholders to target racism in the district. • Staff training on how to respond appropriately to incidents of bullying and discrimination is in development. • A new district Climate Committee will work with middle and high schools and local PTAs on inclusion and diversity. • Student ambassadors will be trained to promote equity on campus, and the Anti-Defamation League's "No Place for Hate" program will be implemented. • Student groups and GSA chapters have made presentations to administrators and school board members about racism and bullying. • e district sent teachers on a field trip to the Museum of Tol- erance in Los Angeles. • e school board adopted a resolution that the district will not tolerate any forms of racism or discrimination. Eighth-grader Evelyn Tackett, president of Charlotte Wood's GSA, thinks the proposed changes are long overdue. "Many teachers feel uncomfortable with these topics, but they should not be afraid of confronting racism or bullying. ey should make it clear that kind of thing is not OK, and listen to students when we have a problem." SRVEA President Ann Katzburg, who is Jewish, knows firsthand how hate crimes hurt. Back in high school, a student left a Ku Klux Klan pamphlet of a black man hanging by a noose along with anti-Semitic slogans on her desk. Her teacher was aghast but did nothing. at night, someone painted a swastika on her house. "My teacher may not have had the tools or knowledge to know how to react, so it's important that we educate our staff. When there is an act of hate, we take these moments and teach our stu- dents. To be in a society that honors civility, we must speak out." Obaiza is glad the district is taking corrective measures, and even happier to see preventive measures being implemented. "It begins with curriculum that builds empathy," she says. "By the time you only focus on consequences, it may be too late." Venture School's Kathy Dillingham: With the election, students "felt they had license to say things they wouldn't have before." California High School students Christina Monis and Madison Ellis. "To be in a society that honors civility, we must speak out." — Ann Katzburg, SRVEA president 46 teaching & learning

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