By Collin Breaux | Email: cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com | Twitter: @collin_breaux

Students and alumni with the group CUSD Against Racism again called on anti-racism action from the Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) during a Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 21.

Advocates who commented during the meeting took issue with the alleged banning of “Black Lives Matter” merchandise on campuses, which made Black and indigenous people of color feel unwelcome.

Susan Holliday, associate superintendent of education services, clarified that the district has not said Black Lives Matter merchandise is prohibited, but rather was addressing a poster that was inconsistent with a policy on approved political and non-instructional material.

“Merchandise for students, or if students want to wear something, that is something they can wear if it’s not disruptive,” Holliday said. “If it’s disruptive, then that’s tied to our dress code policy.”

CUSD Against Racism members and supporters over the past several months have urged the district to act against explicit and implicit racism and bigotry, and during the Oct. 21 meeting called on the district to go further. The Board of Trustees passed a resolution denouncing acts of racism in June following protests, but anti-racism advocates took issue with the district not releasing a statement explicitly saying black lives matter.

Students and alumni again advocated for “Black Lives Matter” during a Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 21. This photo depicts a “Black Lives Matter” protest in San Juan Capistrano in June. Photo: Collin Breaux.

“First and foremost, our goal is to ensure that all students and families feel welcome in CUSD,” Holliday said. “We want all classrooms and all office spaces—whether they’re virtual or they’re in-person or in our facilities—to be welcoming and professional.”

The district has updated handbooks and training materials to clearly address discrimination, define racism and highlight how to report on and respond to it, Holliday said. A Cultural Proficiency Task Force will share a report addressing these issues during a workshop on Nov. 4.

“It is extremely extensive and thorough and it will take us a few years, but it addresses many of the items you’ve heard this evening, specifically around implicit bias,” Holliday said.

An anti-racist protest was held outside Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) offices earlier this year. Photo: Collin Breaux.

In other news, the board discussed students recently returning to campus for in-person learning. Surveys will be sent out to families asking for feedback on the phased returns.

Student Advisor Anchal Bhaskar brought up student feedback on the returns, saying the overall sentiment is that students appreciate the opportunity to have some normalcy again. Bhaskar said students have raised concerns about internet access at schools and some teachers and peers not properly wearing masks.

Seven students and four staff members in CUSD schools have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days, though that doesn’t mean they contracted it at school sites, Superintendent Kirsten Vital said. The district is following communications protocols outlined by county health guidelines, including contact tracing investigations.

The Oct. 21 meeting marked an in-person return to the board room for most trustees, who had met virtually throughout the year during the pandemic.

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  • In August 1892 Francis Bellamy wrote the Pledge of Allegiance.” It read “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” To me, the most important words are one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

    I find the words compelling, because in our Declaration of Independence, it states “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    Women are not mentioned, and Native Americans are simply referred to as merciless Indian Savages. People of color are not mentioned; however, in Section 2, paragraph 3, of the Constitution, they are counted as three fifths of a person.

    We have made some progress over the past 200+ years, but “liberty and justice for all” is still a fantasy. We still treat people of color as a race, separate from white people. But the truth is there are not multiple races, there is just one race, the HUMAN RACE.

    If we are going to continue teaching and requiring the reciting of our pledge of allegiance, then we need teach that there is only one race, and that every human being is entitled to experience the joy of “Liberty and Justice for ALL.” NO EXCEPTIONS.

    And, if we are going to continue to claim that we were founded as a “Christian” nation, then we need to live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus said “Love they neighbor as thyself.” He did not say “Love thy neighbor as thyself, EXCEPT people of color, LGBTQ, or non-Christians.

    YES, Black Lives Matter, and we white people owe them a great deal. If their ancestors had never walked out of Africa to settle the world, we white people might never have existed. Mitochondrial Eve was African, and a bit of her DNA exists in all of us.

  • The comments by Joanna Clark seem a little confusing. On the one hand in the statement is the reference we are “ALL EQUAL WITH NO EXCEPTIONS” yet in the last of the article the words “YES BLACK Lives Matter” appears. In making the injection “BLACK” and speak “of ancestors from Africa ” and LGBTQ or Christians, you have called out EXCEPTIONS. It would have been more inclusive to simply say “LIVES MATTER” and leave it at that.

    If we must have discussions and conversations on differences we need to consider “Ethics” “Character,” “Behavior” as that is the REAL reason people are accepted or rejected.

    The color of the skin, the nationality, or what you do in your bedroom is not what is objectable, it is how you present yourself to we the people.

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