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LAUSD Candidate Forum: Inclusion and Diversity

School Board candidates are asked questions about how the District should address Anti-Semitism, homophobia, and Black Student Achievement.

By Carl J. PetersenPublished about a month ago 3 min read
Photo by Brittani Burns on Unsplash

We will all profit from a more diverse, inclusive society, understanding, accommodating, even celebrating our differences, while pulling together for the common good.

– Ruth Bader Ginsburg

As the country races toward becoming “majority-minority” where non-Hispanic white people will be less than half of the population, fear has fueled a rising level of bigotry. Anti-Semitic incidents in the country rose more than 35% from 2021 to 2022 and then skyrocketed up about 400% in the month after Hamas’ deadly terrorist attack on Israel. The Proud Boys and other far-right groups have disrupted “Drag Queen Story Hour” events across the country, sometimes violently. Fifty-one percent of Black Americans reported hearing racial slurs and 60% reported being stopped or unfairly treated by the police.

Los Angeles is one of the most diverse cities in the world, with 37.7% of our residents being foreign-born. Ninety-eight languages are spoken in the sprawling Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) schools. Approximately 17.5% of the city’s population is Jewish, the largest community in the world outside of New York City and Israel. While Los Angeles joined Chicago and New York to hold the first Gay Pride parades to commemorate the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, only Los Angeles’ was officially permitted. Los Angeles County is home to the third largest Black population (936,285) in the United States.

Being a diverse city has not exempted us from the rising tides of bigotry. Weeks before the primary election in March 2024, copies of Tweets from a candidate in LAUSD Board District 1 were uncovered that showed support for a book that is “widely criticized for being antisemitic.” Last June a group violently protested against a Pride Month assembly in front of Saticoy Elementary School. While 8.6% of Los Angeles’ population is Black or African American, in the Summer of 2020 31% percent of the people locked up in the Los Angeles County jail system.

These issues highlight the importance of tackling inclusion and diversity in our schools. With this in mind, the six remaining candidates for the LAUSD School Board were sent the following questions to the email they have on file with the Los Angeles City Clerk:

  • The proposed “LAUSD Resolution On Antisemitism” includes a requirement “that standalone units of study on antisemitism in both middle and high school will include a lesson on how the misuse of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movements can be antisemitic.” Would you support a resolution that included this wording?
  • During the 2020 election, the California Charter School Association (CCSA) ran an ad campaign against Scott Schmerelson that was widely condemned for using Anti-Semitic tropes. Based on these actions would you reject support from this organization?
  • During this year’s primary election, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) endorsed a candidate who in the past had called on the LAUSD to include in its curriculum a book that has been called “the Bible of new antisemitism.” Was the union correct to pull its endorsement of this candidate?
  • When Citizens of the World Charter School was co-located on the campus of Shirley Avenue Elementary School, it had a student body that was significantly whiter and more affluent than its host. Should charter schools be held responsible for ensuring that their demographics reflect that of the community?

    • Do you support “The Great Big Book of Families,” as an age-appropriate resource for teaching elementary school students about diversity in family structures?
    • Bullying often has an underlying component of racism, homophobia, or other types of bigotry. Is the LAUSD doing enough to eliminate bullying from its campuses?
    • Long-used forms of student discipline have been accused of contributing to a school-to-prison pipeline. In response, the LAUSD has mandated that schools limit suspensions and implement Restorative Justice programs. Is the District providing enough support to ensure that these will help achieve their stated goal?
    • The LAUSD has programs in place to lower the number of black students eligible for Special Education services claiming that this racial group is often overidentified and this causes harm. Do these programs run the risk of preventing students from receiving the services that they need?

    ______________________

    Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for public education, particularly for students with special education needs, who serves as the Education Chair for the Northridge East Neighborhood Council. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Dr. Diane Ravitch has called him “a valiant fighter for public schools in Los Angeles.” For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.

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    About the Creator

    Carl J. Petersen

    Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with SpEd needs and public education. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Opinions are his own.

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    Comments (1)

    • Marc Johnson about a month ago

      Great post

    Carl J. PetersenWritten by Carl J. Petersen

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