By Collin Breaux
Students and alumni with the group CUSD Against Racism again called on anti-racism action from the Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) during a Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 21.
Advocates who commented during the meeting took issue with the alleged banning of “Black Lives Matter” merchandise on campuses, which made Black and indigenous people of color feel unwelcome.
Susan Holliday, associate superintendent of education services, clarified that the district has not said Black Lives Matter merchandise is prohibited, but rather was addressing a poster that was inconsistent with a policy on approved political and non-instructional material.
“Merchandise for students, or if students want to wear something, that is something they can wear if it’s not disruptive,” Holliday said. “If it’s disruptive, then that’s tied to our dress code policy.”
CUSD Against Racism members and supporters over the past several months have urged the district to act against explicit and implicit racism and bigotry, and during the Oct. 21 meeting called on the district to go further. The Board of Trustees passed a resolution denouncing acts of racism in June following protests, but anti-racism advocates took issue with the district not releasing a statement explicitly saying black lives matter.
“First and foremost, our goal is to ensure that all students and families feel welcome in CUSD,” Holliday said. “We want all classrooms and all office spaces—whether they’re virtual or they’re in-person or in our facilities—to be welcoming and professional.”
The district has updated handbooks and training materials to clearly address discrimination, define racism and highlight how to report on and respond to it, Holliday said. A Cultural Proficiency Task Force will share a report addressing these issues during a workshop on Nov. 4.
“It is extremely extensive and thorough and it will take us a few years, but it addresses many of the items you’ve heard this evening, specifically around implicit bias,” Holliday said.
In other news, the board discussed students recently returning to campus for in-person learning. Surveys will be sent out to families asking for feedback on the phased returns.
Student Advisor Anchal Bhaskar brought up student feedback on the returns, saying the overall sentiment is that students appreciate the opportunity to have some normalcy again.
Bhaskar said students have raised concerns about internet access at schools and some teachers and peers not properly wearing masks.
Seven students and four staff members in CUSD schools have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days, though that doesn’t mean they contracted it at school sites, Superintendent Kirsten Vital said. The district is following communications protocols outlined by county health guidelines, including contact tracing investigations.
The Oct. 21 meeting marked an in-person return to the board room for most trustees, who had met virtually throughout the year during the pandemic.