Features Magazine News Volume 70, Issue 3

The Impacts of the District’s DEI Groups

By Brooke Killgore

Graphic by Zeyada Negasi

Amidst the recent developments behind racial justice and equality that have come back into the country’s light, the AUHSD has come forward with several groups to help inform students, parents and teachers about ways to be more racially aware and more open to student safety. Better known as the DEI, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Group have made it their goal to ensure students that within the district can have open conversations about race and remind themselves what it means to live in a diverse community. Las Lomas’s DEI is run by the PTSA, whose president Samantha Francois gave a statement on the goals of the group: “We [PTSA and DEI] are committed to the safety and well-being of all students at Las Lomas. We welcome different perspectives and encourage dialogue around complex issues. We realize that discrimination, sexual harassment and racism are serious matters and will work with our school community to effect positive change.” The DEI’s website continues the statement, mentioning its “robust and inclusive curriculum that provides students with the education necessary to excel and contribute to a diverse and multicultural society.”

Community member Phil Abellera joined the DEI to try and get students and their parents to be more involved with prominent issues within the school’s campus. Abellera stated, “They [AUHSD] have done well, especially with the formation of the Bias Incident Reporting Team and the DEI committee… the district is making progress; they are formally acknowledging incidents, starting several programs about race and have several staff and administration getting involved. I hope that more families want to get involved; every voice should be heard.” Teacher Marlene Miranda, who is also a member of Las Lomas’s DEI, discussed the impacts of the racial equity groups on campus: “…[providing] racial equity training of staff and small groups of students, that has been superb. It has changed my life with regards to making me into a racial equity leader…the lack of integrating the training has been problematic, and that is now being addressed in the Academy Cohort race lessons. The lack of racial equity policy and discipline measures to protect students and staff of color has been problematic and it is now in place which is another helpful start….the lack of diversifying the staff has stood out to me working in this district, and I, along with a POC staff group, have been working with district administration to change that. We all recognize the need to actively recruit POC staff, and it is an entire separate effort to retain those staff members.” Similar to Abellera’s statement on what they want to see going forward, Miranda stated, “Right now I am just focusing on moving forward and being transparent with what the diversity and inclusion issues are to the community.”

Outside of Las Lomas, other schools such as Miramonte, Acalanes and Campolindo have also formed their own DEI groups. Ellide Smith is the chair of the DEI Committee “Campo Parents Club,” and whose son also attends Campolindo. Smith talked about her involvement with the DEI, “One of the things that have stood out to me the most is lack of transparency and long term, multi-tiered strategic planning as it relates to diversity, equity and inclusion efforts on a comprehensive level throughout our district…I cannot personally account for their past efforts, but [I] will continue to advocate for real substantial change as it relates to our students within this district. What has been done before this school year has been insufficient, but we must continue to apply the pressure to demand more of our educational institutions. What I, and many others, would love to see is a full-time position within the district office, as well [in] each of the four high schools, dedicated to equity work. We will not always get it right, but we are doing everything in our power to support our students being in an equitable and inclusive environment where they all have a sense of belonging. That means that we take action, engage, educate and hold all parties accountable, and this is seen [in] the actions that we have pressed upon the district over the last 4+ months. In my opinion, transparency helps to build trust in any relationship, and we just haven’t seen a sufficient level of transparency as it relates to equity work that the district has done in the past. This type of work is a marathon, not a sprint. Every step must be thoughtful and thought out, not in a manner of ‘checking a box,’ but one in which equity and inclusiveness are embedded into the fabric of our schools and our districts.”