Letter: Empowering Students Right Idea, Wrong Messenger

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We agree community should “listen up” after LBHS students petitioned School Board for “answers and action” on equity and justice for Black Americans (“Left of Center” Jean Hastings Ardell, Indy, Sept. 4). 

The column disappointingly turned into a puff piece about embattled Supt. Jason Viloria. Not a credible messenger on student empowerment or race. Fact checking would have gone long way.

In 2018 LBHS, students petitioned for Board agenda item on student empowerment. Viloria and Board President Jan Vickers never responded to request submitted under board bylaws.    

Despite that negative civics lesson, intrepidly students came for public comment session on Aug. 21, but Viloria and Board sat in stony silence.  Only member Dee Perry – as allowed by Board bylaws – commended student civic skills and initiative on generational issues.

After LBHS graduation, one student asked to meet Perry before leaving for college. Consistent with Board bylaws Perry replied complaints go through Superintendent. The new LBHS alumnus just wanted to meet with his elected representative as a constituent. 

Soon after Viloria and Board President Peggy Wolff wrote a letter informing the LBHS graduate he had been seen and reported for meeting with Perry, and it was a violation of Board bylaws without permission from Viloria. That letter was a violation of Board bylaws, Perry’s meeting with her constituent was not.

Even worse, faced with actual alleged race hate incident involving LBHS students, Viloria so badly bungled due process for alleged perpetrators and victim that a lawsuit followed in which a state judge ruled: “The court finds…Jason Viloria, as Superintendent…abused discretion in suspending student…had no statutory authority to suspend student…is ordered to cease punishing student.” Student Doe v. LBUSD, Jason Viloria, Superintendent.

To salvage Viloria’s professional pride, the Board authorized a costly appeal.  Again, a three-member appellate panel ruled in February 2020 that Viloria violated student rights under CA Ed. Code 48911, holding “The logical import of the District’s noncompliance with Section 48911 means we have no alternative but to affirm the trial court’s judgment…”

Both the accused and the alleged victim were denied truth and justice.

We don’t need Viloria’s consultant pals cashing in on “diversity tokenism.” Instead of awkward race narratives, community should reach out to students, parents and grandparents from truly diverse racially blended families who are our neighbors, to hear more authentic voices speaking truth about the opportunity and challenge of racial reconciliation.     

Howard Hills, Laguna Beach

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1 COMMENT

  1. Excellent letter Howard…things are so out of hand, but maybe a wake up call for parents to know what is going on at this school board!

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