Santa Barbara Ethnic Studies Students Host Community Forum and Celebration
The Santa Barbara Unified School District Ethnic Studies Departments hosted a community forum on Wednesday, March 9 at La Cumbre High School, where students and teachers from the department shared their experiences in the program and its impact on their life.
Hosted by Santa Barbara High School teacher Joseph Velasco and District Ethnic Studies Support Specialist Artnelson Concordia, the forum featured a series of student and teacher testimonials, dance performances from the Santa Barbara Folklorico High School, a video of students recounting their ethnic studies experiences, and a spoken word performance by Shakir Ahmad, a student from San Marcos who was also an organizer of the student-led Black Lives Matter protest State Street in June 2020.
Concordia gave a brief history of ethnic studies programs and explained that these courses aim to broaden students’ understanding of history and its relationship to the origins and circumstances of America today. “As long as our understanding of history is strictly Euro-American, it is incomplete,” Concordia said.
The presidents of the three high school ethnic studies clubs spoke, including Kavya Suresh of San Marcos. “It wasn’t like I was learning anything completely new,” she said. “I was just learning distinct tools to describe the experience I have every day.”
Although the event was planned over the past year, it followed the February school board meeting where a parent and other speakers called out the district for a lack of transparency and adequate action in the fight. against racist violence on campuses.
Three days before this Wednesday’s meeting, March 6, District Superintendent Hilda Maldonado sent a message to parents via ParentSquare, reporting 12 recent racially motivated incidents on seven campuses, ranging from racial slurs and harassment to hate violence. , and acknowledging the district’s need to do more to prevent racist actions against students and teachers.
Although Maldonado did not provide specific details about the incidents, saying it was necessary to withhold this information to avoid re-traumatizing the children and to comply with education code protecting student privacy, she said the school district is “dealing proactively.” incidents.
Healing Justice Santa Barbara also sent out a petition Wednesday night, asking the Santa Barbara Unified School District to conduct a full investigation into the 12 racial incidents. The petition, which currently has more than 200 signatures, also called for a series of actions to protect black children, including providing culturally responsible counselors trained in racial trauma and proposing programs that condemn anti-black violence for children. non-black families, caregivers, and students.
“The safety of our children is our top priority,” Maldonado told the Independent through District Spokesperson Nick Masuda. “Working with our staff, parents and community partners to address racism on our campuses across the district is our goal. We investigate every incident and are committed to transparently reporting incidents as they occur.
Editor’s note: This story was updated on 3/14/22 to include additional information.