Fullerton School District Board Members Reconsider Black Lives Matter Resolution Again

HOSAM ELATTAR, Voice of OC

Ladera Vista Junior High School on Jun. 23, 2020.

Fullerton School District board members today will once again reconsider a resolution declaring Black lives Matter amidst pressure from hundreds of educators, parents and community members calling for it to be adopted.

The district’s Board of Education voted unanimously around midnight on Wednesday to adjourn their meeting after seven hours and to continue it at 5 p.m. Thursday. This is the second time such a resolution was before them without voting on it.

“We need to work with our teachers. We need to work with our community, we need to work with the five of us board members so that we come up with something that speaks louder than words and actions,” said Board member Janny Meyer at the meeting. 

Alison Dover, a secondary education professor at Cal State Fullerton, said in an interview that people were disappointed that action has yet to be taken but appreciates the want for consensus from the board.

“This is a moment in time in which the parents, families and teachers and students of Fullerton School District need to know that the district is looking out for and really attentive to the needs of our Black students,” Dover said.

Resolutions like these have been landing on district board agendas across Orange County as protests against police brutality have rippled across the globe amid uproar over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd. 

In fact the resolution had been before the Fullerton board weeks ago at their June 9 meeting but following a contentious and long deliberation, board members pushed the vote to June 23. 

Board members Beverly Berryman, Hilda Sugarman and Meyer said at the June 9 meeting they felt they did not have enough time and input in the resolution and believed the board could come up with a stronger document together.  

Board member Jeanette Vázquez pushed for it to be passed at that meeting with initial support from Board member Aaruni Thakur who later motioned to continue the item to June 23 rather than table it.

Other versions of the resolution were crafted but once again Berryman wanted the vote on the resolution to be pushed citing the lateness of the time as one of the factors as well as still wanting to work on it more.

“I don’t think that we can give it the time that we need to give it and have this important discussion at this time of night,” Berryman said. “I really don’t want to hold this over. I don’t want to prolong this but our community and our children deserve us to be able to come up with something that we could all talk about and all feel good and proud about.”

Over 30 people wrote to the board in support of a resolution declaring Black Lives Matter including an open letter that is now signed by over 280 parents, teachers and community members. 

Their letter also voiced support for an increased ethnic studies curriculum as well as the creation of a task force made up of stakeholders to make recommendations regarding diversity equity and inclusion. 

“In these complex times, it is essential that parents, teachers, and administrators work collectively to promote equitable, effective, and inclusive school systems,” reads the letter.

But not everyone in the community is in support of the resolution. Over 20 people wrote to the board asking not to approve the resolution calling it indoctrination and urging board members not to bring politics into the classroom. 

“I would much rather see our schools actually teach the skills that it takes to help improve race relations and ensure true knowledge in regards to diversity and equity. How about some efforts around teaching early about implicit bias,” read several comments submitted by the public.

The earlier resolution encouraged district wide participation in “Black Lives Matter at School Week,” a national initiative to get students to engage in issues of racial justice that take place in February, and to proclaim Black lives matter.

A second version does this as well and forms a committee made up of Black community leaders, academic and board members to determine an additional week for the initiative.

A third version calls for the board to work with the Parent Teacher Association and other community advisory groups to take proactive steps to greater equality in the district as well as evaluate policies, class and cultural biases that create achievement gaps and hinder equal opportunities for all students. It does not explicitly declare Black lives matter.

Thakur proposed to combine elements of the resolutions and was supported by Vázquez. The other members of the board did not support that motion.

“The thing that you’re suggesting Aaruni, the changes, almost every single line says Black lives matter and we have so many people that didn’t like that. I’m not opposed to having someplace in it say Black lives matter. They do matter but this is over the top,” Sugarman said.

However many like Dover are calling for an explicit statement in support of Black students and families. Dover hopes the resolution will be passed on Thursday.

“A simple statement in support of Black lives is not enough. It needs to be part of a broader commitment to anti-racist education and to widespread analysis of curriculum and policy,” she said.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.