Laguna Beach USD will consider adding lessons and policies to stem racism

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The Laguna Beach Unified Board of Education met virtually with staffers and student representatives April 16. Courtesy of Youtube

The Laguna Beach Unified School District’s Board of Education will review a slate of new measures to “eliminate institutional racism,” including adding an Ethnic Studies curriculum, at a special study session on Wednesday.

On Aug. 10, a letter now signed by more than 250 current and former Laguna Beach Unified School District students, parents, and faculty was sent to the school board advocating for the adoption of an anti-racist resolution. The letter follows nationwide protests this summer protesting, among other issues, the deaths of Black people during interactions with law enforcement.

“The Board of Education maintains the belief that racism and racial injustice have no place in our society,” according to a statement attached to the meeting agenda. “In addition, the Board of Education is distraught by the continued stream of casualties and abuse seen throughout the nation and is saddened for the families who have been destroyed and the loved ones lost. Racial injustice has disproportionately impacted African­ American and Black lives.”

If it approves the proposed resolution, the school board would pledge to implement “anti-racist pedagogy and curriculum” in its classes and develop “Ethnic Studies curricula.” It wasn’t immediately clear whether this constitutes new courses.

The district would also vow to purchase, develop, and offer training that supports critical dialogue and implement anti-racist practices. The Board of Trustees could also commit to forming an anti-racism task force to review the efficacy of this work. This Task Force would include Black, Indigenous, and People of Color representing students, staff, and community members.

The resolution does not identify specific courses, textbooks, grade levels, the number of students who would enroll, frequency of staff training, or an estimated budget for adopting the new curriculum. Administrators would likely return with these details after receiving board direction.

Laguna Beach Unified is not the only school district in coastal Orange County that is actively seeking to educate students about the value of racial equality and justice.

In March 2019, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District established a Human Relations Task Force after photos posted to social media showed local students participating in an off-campus party featuring plastic cups arranged as a Swastika. The Task Force partnered with Orange County Human Relations to develop a robust implementation plan that included workshops for anti-bias training.

Some in-person activities recommended for Newport-Mesa students this school year, including visits to the Museum of Tolerance, have been postponed due to COVID-19.

If approved, the resolution would be the school board’s strongest declaration in years that Laguna Beach schools will not tolerate racial bias.

“Laguna Beach Unified School District is committed to eliminating systemic disparities and ensuring systemic equity and… addressing the needs of Black, Indigenous, People of Color learners requirers the District to engage in continuous learning, and to disrupt current policies and practices that perpetuate racism and disparities in educational opportunities,” the proposed resolution states.

The proposed resolution is up for discussion by board members during a Zoom meeting scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Officials will need to schedule another meeting for an official vote.

Public comments can be submitted in writing ahead of the meeting via a Google form.

The school board will also have a regular meeting via Zoom at 6 p.m. on Thursday. An update on the state waiver for reopening elementary schools is on the agenda.

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