SOLANA BEACH — A new policy on diversity, equity and inclusion is being fast-tracked for approval by the Solana Beach Elementary School District following discussions after the first reading of the draft policy this week.
The district adopted a resolution last June affirming its commitment to fight against institutional racism. Following that adoption, an Institutional Racism Advisory Group was formed involving staff, administrators, parents and community members. The draft policy is a result of multiple meetings of that group.
“We’ve had the impact of recent current events on all of us,” Superintendent Jodi Brentlinger said. “Like the pandemic, which we have seen, there exists a variety of opinions and perspectives about the subject of diversity, equity and inclusion which further adds pressure to what and how schools should respond to that.”
Some of the key points of the draft policy include identifying and correcting cultural biases or institutional barriers and committing to making decisions with a “deliberate awareness of impediments to ensure equitable access and equal outcomes.”
Brentlinger has been a part of the advisory group discussions but made it clear the policy is a recommendation to the school board.
“It’s important to clarify that the board is the one who makes policy decisions and as the advisory group we are the ones that will make recommendations to the board,” Brentlinger said.
There was general support from both the public and the board itself for the proposed policy with Member Dana King pleased with how it could help the district turn words into actions.
“The appropriate messaging that is in our board policies talks about our belief in diversity, equity and inclusion. That’s talking the talk. And what I think this policy is going to allow is for staff to really walk the walk,” King said. “I think most of us feel there is an urgent need to make this world, and this school district specifically, a better place.”
Member Julie Union, however, said she couldn’t support the policy as it was written in the draft presented to the school board.
“I’m concerned about the new equity-based California state math framework being discussed that would include the same math classes for students in grades K-10th grade, eliminating honors classes,” Union said.
Union also has issues with the use of critical race theory in the forming of the policy.
“With a (critical race theory) lens, I’m concerned that some children will be indoctrinated into thinking people with white skin are inherently racist and all people of color are oppressed,” Union said.
The proposed next steps for the policy were for the board to begin participating in diversity, equity and inclusion professional development sessions beginning in the fall as well as become involved in broader community engagement before the policy was brought back for a second reading in January of 2022.
However, it was decided instead that the board will come back at their June 17th meeting with recommended changes for a second reading of the draft policy.
“I think it’s important for everyone to know we’re going to have to have a majority on it,” Board President Vicki King said. “If we don’t have that then I like the idea of a third reading or proceeding with plans. We’ll all be able to make our positions known at the next meeting.”