Level Playing Field by Pat Byrnes, PoliticalCartoons.com

Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.

James Baldwin

After more than a year, parents of African-American students have waited for action to address anti-blackness and racism in the Santa Barbara Unified School District. The racial climate survey was important — the board now has undeniable evidence to corroborate what parents and students have said for decades.

From the racial climate survey, the administration will present recommendations to the board. We need actionable goals with accountability. Our students cannot thrive in a broken system plagued with vague promises and no direct action. We want the board and the administration to create goals and tell us who is responsible for meeting these goals.

Immediate actions that need to be implemented by September 30, 2023:

1) Protocols for responding to anti-blackness racial incidents must be in place. Give teachers, staff, and administrators directions on how to handle racial incidents.

2) Teachers and staff must have received training on these protocols. We request that you hold a summer institute on racism and anti-blackness and pay teachers and staff to attend a learning-intensive taught by people of color with lived experiences.

3) Set clear consequences and options for restorative practices for racist behavior and incidents. Hold meetings at each school to present the protocols and consequences to parents.

4) Create a district-wide position as a part of the family engagement staff to respond to the needs of Black students and families.

Systemic racism must be addressed. The system has for decades oppressed Black students by not giving them the same level of academic support and access to social-emotional help. All school districts in Santa Barbara County are failing our Black students. The performance of these students is not being addressed with direct services or dollars. Students and families are trying to navigate daily racist incidents with no support or intervention — how can these students possibly thrive?

However, the schools cannot be a scapegoat. If there is racism in the schools, it’s because racism is in our community. Racism permeates housing, jobs, and policing. After the death of George Floyd, businesses, government, and nonprofits pledged to deal with racism in this community — those promises have fallen by the wayside.

In 1951, The NAACP of Santa Barbara brought a complaint to Santa Barbara School District. Our complaint was a lack of teachers, discrimination, and racist treatment of Black students. It’s 72 years later, and generations have endured the same treatment.

Nothing will work unless you do it.

Maya Angelou


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