ENCINITAS — Standing on Santa Fe Drive during rush hour, approximately 80 students, parents and teachers held hand-painted signs and chanted “No justice, no peace” during a protest against racial inequality in schools on August 14 near San Dieguito Academy in Encinitas.
Organized by the local civil rights group, Encinitas 4 Equality (E4E), protesters are demanding San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) Board of Trustees publicly discuss racial inequalities in local school systems during the board’s upcoming August 27 meeting.
Madi Logan, a 19-year-old Black alumna of San Dieguito Academy (SDA), said she saw the event advertised on Instagram and having experienced racism while attending high school — both overt and implicit — decided to attend.
“Everyone thinks that San Dieguito Academy doesn’t have any racial issues but I went there for four years and that is pretty much the most false thing I’ve ever heard,” Logan said. “Once, someone blatantly called me the N-word. I reported it to the admin but they did nothing about it, probably because they didn’t care enough, which is why we’re here.”
Logan said some of the comments and questions about her hair and appearance while attending SDA were due to genuine ignorance, not necessarily outright racism.
“Some people have never seen someone like me before and they’re curious, but they [ask questions] in the totally wrong, offensive way,” Logan said.
Logan and other students were accompanied by adults and teachers in support of inserting an agenda item onto the school board budget to talk about racial inequalities.
Kathy Stenger, a mother of an SDA student and local middle school teacher, also attended the protest.
“One of the organizers of this event is a past student,” Stenger said. “I always made an intention for several years to teach an anti-racism curriculum and I just feel so proud that she’s taken some seeds from those classes, grown into a strong person as an Arab American and is making a difference.”
“There’s a lack of educational topics on racism — that’s not happening, to my knowledge, at SDA. I can’t speak to the BIPOC experience, but today I can say that the curriculum needs to be different.”
E4E’s protest is just the latest event following a string of communications between the group and SDUHSD with the hopes of implementing racial sensitivity training and curriculum into local schools. In response to the Coast News’ request for comment, the SDUHSD shared a series of email correspondences illustrating the ongoing conversation between the two groups starting mid-July.
According to SDUHSD, in light of COVID-19, the district primarily focused on developing a learning plan for the 2020 school year. Furthermore, the requested social justice topics have not been formally added to the agenda as such paperwork isn’t written until 9-10 days prior to board meetings.
In a statement to the media, SDUHSD Superintendent Robert Haley said, “I appreciate Board President (Beth) Hergesheimer connecting with E4E in a respectful manner… We developed a series of professional development opportunities for our teachers and staff that included a specific course ‘Culturally Responsive Teaching’ that included a module ‘Guiding words to help educators connect with their students and peers in support of Racial Justice.’ Our Distance Learning Model for fall 2020 includes student-connectedness time at all of our sites so there is time for teachers to address issues with students and to ensure all voices are being heard.”
At the time of print, SDUHSD had not released the agenda for the August 27 board meeting nor confirmed whether topics of racial injustice and curriculum in school systems will be addressed.