The Santa Barbara Unified School Board decided Tuesday night to move forward with an assessment of the racial climate in the Santa Barbara Unified School District. From there, the district will issue a request for proposals on how to develop a plan to create diversity, inclusion, and equity in schools.
“We can be better if we commit to doing better,” said board member Wendy Sims-Moten. “Things will change regarding racism.”
Deputy Superintendent Frann Wageneck presented a report in response to recent racial incidents in schools. In February, more than a dozen people, including the victim’s parent, told the council about a racist incident directed at a black student at Santa Barbara Junior High School. Some members spoke on Tuesday night about a separate TikTok video in which black students were the targets of racist attacks.
“We’re going to change that,” Sims-Moten said.
Sims-Moten called for a regular and permanent agenda item that addresses racism and anti-blackness in schools.
“Not in this raucous time where everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon and be a part of something,” Sims-Moten said. “It might be politically expedient for people. I’m just going to be very candid here because that’s what it does. When it’s loud and it’s there and everyone wants to talk about it, everyone is there. But when it’s gone, the families, the people and the students who care for it, they still care for it. So we can’t let our public voice be silenced.
Members of the public criticized the report, saying it was not specific enough to address anti-blackness in schools.
Krystle Sieghart, one of the co-founders of Healing Justice Santa Barbara, said the report was “tone deaf” and that the district did not contact black people and families before making the presentation.
“Again, who are you doing this work for and who is it serving, because it’s not serving black people,” Sieghart said. “At this point, it’s very laughable because we keep going into spaces to educate you, but you keep not wanting to work with people who will hold you accountable and actually get the job done.”
She encouraged black families to contact Healing Justice SB directly.
“We’re here to support you,” she said, “and we love you even though the district keeps failing your kids.”
The report outlines a series of steps on how to respond to “incidents of bias”.
Board member Kate Ford urged everyone to recognize that racism is a choice.
“This town is full of racists, including in our schools,” Ford said. “Racism is a choice, and until we commit to it and admit to dealing with it, no training for adults or consequences for adults or students will work.”
School board takes on campus law enforcement
Although the board took no action, district staff presented a report designed to “reinvent school safety”.
Among the ideas on the table are reassigning the current school resource assistant to Dos Pueblos High School and hiring a full-time officer to oversee Dos Pueblos and San Marcos High Schools and Goleta Valley High School by patrolling the area. off campus and responding on campus in the event of an incident.
Last year, the district removed the school resource officer from San Marcos High School in response to the campus group San Marcos Cops Off Campus! SB Student Coalition. Many students believe officers on campus unfairly target students of color and other underrepresented groups and contribute to feeling unsafe.
In addition, the district plans to conduct annual anti-bias training for all staff and create school cultures that affirm and include all students; hiring staff to work with students, families and social support service agencies, i.e. licensed clinical social workers to ensure overall services are coordinated; increase and strengthen the role of campus safety assistants through training such as mental health first aid, alcohol and drug addiction, etc. ; and perform regular security assessment of physical facilities (strategic camera placement, lighting upgrades, closure of certain areas, vape sensors and traffic flow.
“We are absolutely willing to work with Santa Barbara Unified and the City of Goleta to reimagine school safety, but as proposed, there are significant challenges,” Chief Deputy Sheriff Craig Bonner told Noozhawk. “We’re willing to sit down and discuss this and think of other ideas, but at the same time we have this overriding concern that we’re not going to create something that does more harm than good.”
Sims-Moten said whatever the decision, “we want this to be a student-centered conversation.”
Maldonado’s contract extended
The board approved a one-year contract extension for Superintendent Hilda Maldonado.
His contract was supposed to expire on June 30, 2023, but now it will expire on June 30, 2024.
She earns $250,000 a year.