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By Collin Breaux | Twitter: @collin_breaux

Following protests against racial inequity this summer, the Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) Board of Trustees approved a wide-ranging plan intended to address racist and cultural harassment, make schools more welcoming climates, and support LGBTQ+ students.

The Cultural Proficiency Plan has been in the works since October 2019 and was officially approved during a Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 16. The plan will include anti-bullying training for school staff; fostering multiple ways for students to report bullying; addressing chronic absenteeism among disabled, Black, homeless, foster care, Hispanic, and socially and economically disadvantaged students through parent outreach; and examining and ideally rectifying adversely disproportionate suspension rates among those students, among other measures.

“This (conversation) is really ongoing, and it’s fantastic,” Trustee Amy Hanacek said. “The sooner we can take all this amazing work and not let it lag, the more energy we have towards our goals.”

Students called for more cultural awareness and education this summer during a protest outside the Capistrano Unified School District offices. Photo: Collin Breaux

The plan passed by a 6-1 vote. Trustees Gila Jones, Judy Bullockus, Martha McNicholas, Pamela Braunstein, Krista Castellanos and Hanacek voted yes. Trustee Lisa Davis, who studied the plan but wanted to see more information, voted no.

The plan incorporates feedback from the district’s Cultural Proficiency Task Force, which formed in fall 2019, as well as from members of the group CUSD Against Racism and trustees. District office members and school management representatives are on the Cultural Proficiency Task Force.

CUSD Against Racism organizers who had commented during the Dec. 16 meeting said they were glad to see the plan come forth and appreciated the hard work that went into it, but they urged district officials to continue further with anti-racist measures, and be transparent and accountable in doing so.

Jones said the board should approve the plan, so it’s “on the table,” and the plan can be tweaked as needed as time goes on.

“I would like to pass this tonight with relatively few changes—not that the suggestions are not great. It’s just that we’re talking about editing from the dais, basically,” Jones said. “And that is always a bad practice. I feel like I would like to pass this tonight and maybe revisit it with the input of CUSD Against Racism.”

The Cultural Proficiency Task Force will meet regularly to monitor the implementation of the plan and will share progress with the board, according to a staff report.

In other board news, Braunstein and Davis were sworn in as new trustees after winning the November elections. Braunstein unseated former Board President Jim Reardon in the election for Area 2, which covers portions of San Juan Capistrano. Reardon had served on the board for eight years.

Davis won a close race against fellow candidate Sue Hill for Area 3, which covers portions of San Clemente. Former Area 3 Trustee Patricia Holloway did not run for reelection.

Castellanos and Hanacek were also sworn in again for their seats in Areas 5 and 1, respectively. Castellanos won reelection against challengers Paul Hebbard and Jasmine Funes, while Hanacek was unopposed in the election.

Area 5 covers portions of Aliso Viejo and Laguna Niguel; Area 1 covers portions of San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano and Dana Point, including Capistrano Beach. Bullockus was named the new Board President and Castellanos the new Vice President, as part of the board’s annual leadership reorganization.

Collin Breaux

Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com.

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