By: Anna Kilgariff and Reiko Suzuki
Over the past year, Novato residents have called on Novato Unified School District to address racial inequities within their own community. Their reform efforts failed to accomplish timely and committed change, and future efforts of reform need to be acted out sooner rather than later in order to demonstrate true dedication to change and growth.
In response to the BLM movement and Novato protests, San Marin displayed the phrase “Black Lives Matter” on the electronic signage located at the front of the school, celebrated Black History month with a series of video announcements and a presentation, introduced a multicultural literature and an ethnic studies class to the 2021-2022 curriculum, and established an equity group. When the phrase “BLM” first appeared on the San Marin signage, major companies around the United States were facing backlash and people across the country were reflecting on the racial inequities that exist within their own communities. The coincidental timing of San Marin’s support makes these actions come across as an attempt to avoid racist allegations or backlash. This does not stay true to their claims of being anti-racist or even non-racist, but instead highlights reactionary measures as opposed to authentic contemplative action. Specifically, San Marin’s decision of adding BLM to the electronic signage, only for it to be taken down shortly after by Kris Cosca. After the acknowledgement of Black History Month the BLM phrase returned to the siagange, and Cosca allowed BLM to remain displayed on the signage with the contingency that any new announcements would take priority over BLM on the signage. These actions take away from the strength and power of the message NUSD, and San Marin are trying to portray.
Over the years, NUSD has attempted to make reforms to become more inclusive, and on paper these actions seemingly would increase inclusivity, however, the reality of the situation is that the status quo on nearly all campuses remains the same. The equity group, which was created this year, has failed to address the rising attacks against Asian-Americans as well as the Atlanta shooting on March 16th. Although NUSD did create a listening circle for Asian-Americans to share their experiences, they did very little to publicize it. As a result, the listening group only received an overall attendance of three students. This highlights a lack of discussion and awareness about the Asian-American attacks and overall heightened Asian-American discrimination. NUSD has also not provided easy access to the Equity Imperative and Anti-Racist Resolution, which fails to inform students of their intentions in light of these incidents.
On Jan. 26, 2021 NUSD unanimously passed the resolution, “Proclaiming Anti-Racist Education”. While in the resolution the district did acknowledge racism within the community and mentioned the district’s commitment to eliminating disparities and ensuring equity, they failed to include any language that demonstrated dedication and acceptance of responsibility to the following statements. The lack of any displayed obligation causes their resolution to lose validity, and calls into question whether this resolution was released from a genuine place of recognition or because of community pressure.
As a part of the resolution, NUSD high schools will be adding a multicultural literature and ethnic studies class to their 2021-2022 course list, but as of now the classes will only be offered in high schools for junior and senior years, and will remain optional.
With Black History Month being acknowledged by San Marin for the first time in the past decade, it brings attention to the school’s lack of demonstration and awareness of other heritage months. Months such as Asian American/Pacific Islander Month, Jewish American Heritage Month,National Hispanic-Latino Heritage Month, and National American Indian Heritage Month have yet to be acknowledged by San Marin. These months highlight the celebration and education of marginalized communities and their achievements, history, and culture. Since San Marin has made efforts to recognize Black History month, it would be beneficial for the community to recognize and learn more about the importance and significance of the variety of heritage months that exist. Although the Spanish classes have acknowledged Hispanic-Latino Heritage Month, San Marin overall has not recognized this month to the extent that it could. San Marin has not done anything to demonstrate recognition of these months in the past years, and currently has no demonstration of any future plans to recognize these months. The heritage months should be acknowledged by NUSD in order to work to continue to create an atmosphere where students feel accepted and encouraged to take action for equality of all minorities.
NUSD’s actions are steps in the right direction, however, these actions need to be taken sooner rather than later in order for them to effectively come from a standpoint of needing change rather than avoiding confrontation. NUSD must acknowledge the inequities that exist within our own community in a timely manner. NUSD should not be waiting until students recommend action to be taken. Repeated attacks and hate crimes have marked the past year and a lack of recognition for tragic events is not something we, as a community, should be okay with.