In light of current social issues regarding racism and injustice, CVUSD students have taken the responsibility of creating a more diverse environment on school campuses.
Diversify Our Narrative
DON was founded in June 2020 by WHS graduate Katelin Zhou and Orange Unified School District graduate Jasmine Nguyen, both of whom are current sophomores at Stanford University.
It is a campaign that seeks to fight racism in U.S. schools by incorporating novels written by authors who are Black, Indigenous or People of Color, or novels written about their experiences on core literature lists.
The CVUSD chapter of DON, co-led by district leaders Catherine Xu ’22 and Keira Pender ’22, has already experienced some success.
On Sep. 1, the CVUSD Board of Education passed Resolution #20/21-08: Commitment to Racial Equity in the CVUSD, with five “ayes,” and zero “noes.”
DON drafted this resolution with the help of other local groups like Justice in the Classroom and 805Resistance that also seek to bring about change to Ventura County.
The resolution lists several improvements that the Board will strive to implement to promote diversity and anti-racism within the district. Some of these include implementing curriculum changes, striving to recruit more educators of color and creating a Diversity and Inclusion Program across district schools.
“We hope that because the CVUSD resolution was passed, it’ll inspire other chapters around the nation to pass a similar resolution and to facilitate this change and work towards it,” said Xu.
After passing the resolution, the CVUSD chapter will be meeting with more district administration and staff to discuss future steps. Xu explained that they will be working closely with teachers to incorporate more discussions about race in the classroom, including Lora Novak, the English Department Chair at WHS, and science Department Chair Jennifer Boyd.
“We want to try to normalize this discussion [about race] because when you do normalize it, it makes people more comfortable and more educated about the issues that are going on right now,” said Xu.
CF is a support group of teachers that discusses current events about racial issues as well as how to help their students during this turbulent time.
Boyd, Novak, WHS librarian Julie Speerstra and science teacher Kayla Maxedon were the teachers who began this group at WHS in June 2020 after events like George Floyd’s death and the COVID–19 pandemic.
“Something just struck a chord with me, that we need to do more about this system of racism that obviously exists and has all these negative impacts across society, not just at school,” said Boyd. “I wanted to do something.”
The group’s first meeting was in July, and they now meet every other Thursday. At meetings, they encourage fellow teachers to challenge each others’ perspectives, be open to new ideas and hold each other accountable.
For CF’s first few meetings, they invited students from DON and asked them to share their personal experiences of racism on the WHS campus or throughout the district.
Although students don’t normally attend the meetings, which are primarily for teachers, administrators, counselors and other staff, Boyd explained how it’s helpful to hear a student’s perspective.
In other meetings, the group has discussed the privileges they believe they have and how those privileges affect their teaching. In the future, Boyd also hopes to discuss the new, diverse books that are being implemented into the core literature list.
In the end, the goal of CF is to help teachers and administrators better themselves, the curriculum and their students.
“It’s a challenge,” said Boyd. “We’re thinking we can somehow find solutions. Especially if the teachers and staff and administrators and counselors work together, I don’t see how we can’t make some changes happen.”
Justice in the Classroom
Justice in the Classroom is a student–led coalition that seeks to fight racial equity in America by first establishing equity in education. Newbury Park High School graduate Kavita Rai is the founder and director of the coalition, which started in June 2020.
Justice in the Classroom hopes to carry out change by implementing six proposals: curriculum change, release public reports, diversity and inclusion programs, recruit educators of color, equity training and disciplinary practices.
“We’re trying to make school sites within Ventura County a lot more inclusive and more equitable when it comes to race,” said Manas Khatore, NPHS student and Director of Outreach for the CVUSD chapter. “What that means is that students need to see themselves represented in the literature.”
Khatore explained that minority students usually don’t perform because of a “lack of resources” and “lack of attention,” so the goal is to support these underprivileged students.
Recently, Justice in the Classroom has experienced success with the passing of the CVUSD resolution, and they hope to have the same success in other districts throughout Ventura County.
“In Conejo Valley, it was relatively easy because we have some board members that are very involved with this already,” said Khatore. “But each district is different so it hasn’t been as easy in some of the other districts in Ventura County.”
Because of some of these setbacks, Justice in the Classroom has teamed up with DON in a social media collaboration where they explained how board resolutions work as well as encouraged people to vote, bringing awareness to the upcoming election.
“We also want to work with them more on our outreach on social media which is smart in order for both of us to benefit and gain more followers and gain a larger audience if we collaborate on these bigger projects,” said Khatore. “So yeah, forming partnerships with different organizations like DON is super important.”