By Collin Breaux
Building on previous work, and in the midst of a national racial reckoning, Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) is considering exactly how to implement a Cultural Proficiency Plan that will address, and ideally rectify, equity issues within the district.
CUSD staff presented a draft plan to the Board of Trustees during a workshop on Wednesday, Nov. 4. Proposed ideas included addressing chronic absenteeism, harassment and suspension rates, as well as Advanced Placement course enrollment and completion among disabled, Black, homeless, foster care, Hispanic and socially and economically disadvantaged students—rates of which are generally and adversely disproportionate when compared to overall student rates.
Suggested solutions included parent outreach, anti-bullying training, putting up welcoming posters at schools, focusing on translation and interpretation services, and reviewing suspension and expulsion policies. The year 2023 has been set as a target date for mitigating disproportionate rates among the identified student groups. The plan also incorporates goals for more diversity when hiring staff and increasing awareness of implicit bias.
Concerns brought up by the student-led group CUSD Against Racism have been factored into the plan, and Trustee Gila Jones said she would like to see those highlighted more through women’s literature and ethnic studies. Jones also said many issues come down to classism.
“We are unconsciously classist all the time in the district, and I see evidence of that all the time,” Jones said. “We do not have ways to allow very low-income students to participate in a lot of our extracurriculars, like going to dances … Our yearbooks—don’t even get me started talking about yearbooks, which cost over $100 in our high school.”
Trustee Krista Castellanos said any approach should emphasize school culture and include cultural awareness education for students.
“Our students coming into high school, they’re so diverse,” Castellanos said. “For high school, I just feel like there needs to be a course implemented for them, because we do have to change school culture. Where do we begin? I do feel this is a very small step, but at least it’s a step.”
Trustee Judy Bullockus said critical thinking can also be introduced to students.
“How does this come into play with you being a citizen out in the world, and giving examples and the critical thinking part about decisions and perception?” Bullockus said. “And so that it is something we start early on, and then we have conversations, and it becomes something bigger in terms of relating to that high school student about, out in the world—how they’re going to relate to it and what others can relate to them and the critical thinking part of their decisions.”
A final Cultural Proficiency Plan is scheduled to be presented to the Board of Trustees for approval at a Dec. 16 meeting. CUSD staff will consider feedback from trustees and other district stakeholders for the final plan.
Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.