Please also view recommendations for curriculum, by Shannon Fierro, VP Administration at Berkeley High School, in details on our "Resources" page on this website.
Below are Kobi's remarks:
On Monday, May 8, Randy Booker invited me and fellow PADC co-president Alison Feldman to inform us about a special assembly planned for that day. Since then the Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee has been in ongoing conversations with the school district, parent support groups and community members to determine how best to be a resource for students, staff and community members. PADC has also heard from dozens of concerned residents, young and old, sharing their stories and feelings. Here are some of the themes that have emerged:
As a community we are deeply hurt and angry about the series of anti-semitic incidents. Certainly, Alison and I walked out of that first meeting with Randy feeling shocked and dismayed at what we learned. And there is a range of opinions on the discipline that followed; as well on as the focus these incidents brought on school climate in general.
We heard that some members of the Jewish community felt indignant that black kids complaining about being treated like a curiosity by their peers (e.g. constantly having their hair messed with) was somehow equivalent to the pain of The Holocaust. The takeaway here is that
there are factions forming within our community, at a time when we need to come together.
This is a community-wide issue not just a school issue, and we have to figure out how best to build community resilience to support and nurture our young people given the shifts in the broader social context, the nature of still forming youth and the need for all of us - adults and youth to learn from our mistakes. And to continue to build community. While some members of the community see the events as an opportunity to build alliances, students and adults are feeling quite polarized.
Many of our youth simply don't find this charged language (or these acts) to be offensive. It's unclear whether they're unaware of the historical genesis and implications of these slurs, or whether they choose to interpret them as benign. This is a complex and important observation to dig into.
We recognize that the news coverage of the anti-semitic incidents was sensational and inflammatory, but we have also continued to hear that it did give voice to the reality that students of color have been putting up with this crap for ever, and feel that their pleas for support have gone unheard by the school district.
Some kids experienced varying degrees of backlash after the special assembly, and after the KTVU news segment aired. Some of these actions are being investigated by the police department as potential hate crimes. These developments were astonishing and deeply saddening for all of our active members.
We heard, loud and clear, a need for forums for people to discuss and process these events. We heard from students, who organized a Share Your Voice gathering last week; and also from parent groups, who are exploring some options for adults. At a minimum, we at PADC would like to help create a safe space where our youth can share their stories without fear of retribution or judgement. We're also available to partner with other groups addressing this.
There is a sense that the school district was caught flat-footed with all of this. And many people felt left in the dark about what specifically had happened, and when. The second, district-wide letter did much to alleviate this, but some students wished they too had received additional clarifying information directly.
Unfortunately, these recent incidents of harassment and discrimination are not an aberration. Racist graffiti has been an ongoing problem. Brown kids in elementary school threatened with deportation, or vilified as terrorists, by peers on the playground. How can we forget the FSL insanity from 2012? It's clear that the social climate in our schools breeds this behavior. We need to take a hard look in the mirror and own that reality. We must, as a community, urgently address this issue. And not just because it's obviously the right thing to do. If we fail to act, we risk getting sued.
We are actually optimistic that Piedmont can figure this out, because we've done this before. At a city council meeting in 2010, after several wrenching testimonials from residents about mistreatment by the police, then-City Administrator Geoff Grote admonished the council to instruct the City to act, because if we do not act, we will get sued. That was a pivotal moment, and we now have a first rate, progressive police department that we can be proud of. We also know that you share our values -- for example, your forceful response to the Pig's Head incident and sidewalk graffiti last November was truly exemplary.
Tonight, on behalf of the community, we are asking the School Board to act swiftly and decisively. We know from this precedent that change will not come overnight -- it took years of training and renewal to transform PPD. But, with the coordinated and sustained support of school leadership, the city, and the community, we can do this.
Finally, we’d like to offer a specific recommendation for what Diversity Education could look like in PUSD. I’ll touch on highlights. Full document and additional resources will be available on our website.
To support the development of the whole child in PUSD and improve the climate and culture of our schools and community by providing students with the language and tools to successfully navigate issues of diversity both interpersonally and within society.
- To integrate explicit diversity education into the K-12 curriculum including both student learning objectives and experiential objectives such as celebrations and events.
- To develop a K-12 scope and sequence of diversity education for PUSD. Curriculum should address the four following areas of diversity education:
- Race/ Ethnicity
- Sexual Orientation/ Identity
- To partner with leaders in the field to provide guidance, support and professional development. Partners may include but are not limited to:
- Restorative Justice
- National Equity Project
- Green Dot
- To identify lab classrooms in the 6th and 9th grades in which aspects of an explicit diversity curriculum can begin to take shape and be piloted in 17-18.