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Los Al Superintendent addresses response to adoption of social justice framework

In his superintent’s report during the Tuesday, May 11, Los Alamitos Unified School District Board meeting (held online), Dr. Andrew Pulver addressed the response to the topic scheduled as Item #9, approval of supplemental materials, Social Justice Standards – The Teaching Tolerance Anti-Bias Framework.

Dr. Andrew Pulver. Photo courtesy of Los Alamitos Unified School District.
Dr. Andrew Pulver. Photo courtesy of Los Alamitos Unified School District.

Near the start of the report, he stated that opinion among parents divided in three: those who support adoption, those who oppose the adoption, and those who do not hold a strong opinion for one reason or another.

At the end of his report, he returned to the topic of the social justice standard.

Points:

  • Do not be distracted or misled by scary vocabulary (e.g., “social justice”)
  • Critical Race Theory is not going to be implemented
  • Social Justice Standard is not Critical Race Theory
  • Non-white students expressed a desire for ethnic studies to be more integrated into the curriculum, so that they can see themselves beginning earlier than high school
  • Many things contained in the Social Justice Standard already appear in the previously adopted Anti-Bullying Standard
  • Supplemental resource for teachers to use in framing coursework appropriate for each grade level

He offered numerous excerpts from the framework that included examples of how the framework could be applied in an age-appropriate manner.

Board President Marlys Davidson praised the report. She repeated the sentiment that Los Al Unified always does it their own way and expressed her approval of the framework.

Text of email sent by Dr. Pulver prior to Board meeting

Pay special attention to the examples of misinformation at the bottom of the quoted email.

School Board shifts to virtual meeting format due to safety concerns

Dear Los Alamitos Unified Staff, Families, and Community,

Maintaining safety for the students, parents, staff, and members of the public who attend our Board of Education meetings is an obligation we take very seriously.

It became apparent last week that some organizations and individuals ― many from outside of our school district ― were planning to disrupt the May 11 Board discussion of the Social Justice Standards that is on the Agenda for consideration by the Board tonight. These standards are a supplemental resource for teachers and administrators. Working in collaboration with agencies at federal and local levels, the Los Alamitos Police department informed the District of a variety of inflammatory chatter on the internet that caused concern for the safety of students, parents, staff, and community members in attendance.

Working with local law enforcement, we determined that this inflammatory rhetoric posed a credible threat to our students, parents, and staff attending an in-person meeting. We were also concerned about capacity limits in meeting spaces due to COVID-19 forcing people to mingle outside the building. Based on recommendations from our local law enforcement, we made the decision to change the Board of Education meeting to an online format. Police have stated they will be present outside of the district office in the afternoon and for the duration of the Board meeting since protestors plan to gather there despite the fact that the building will be closed to the public.

The move to an online meeting was never intended to silence or suppress any voices from our community. For the past several months we have listened thoughtfully and intently to everyone who reached out via email, phone, in person, or at Board meetings. Our Board has extended public comment at every Board meeting to ensure all people who wanted to speak were given the opportunity. We will continue to do this at upcoming meetings. A written notice in the Board agenda describes how and when public comment cards can be submitted before the meeting. You can view those instructions on www.losal.org.

We acknowledge that there are diverse perspectives and while many parents and community members have expressed their support for these standards, we have also heard from parents and community members who are concerned about how these standards might be applied in our schools. We are asking everyone to see beyond the misinformation on social media. Please read the district FAQ specifically addressing community questions along with the full text of the standards, so you can have a genuine understanding of what we intend to accomplish using their use. Our goal is to promote dialogue and respectful discussion to help find common ground on these sensitive subjects.

There appears to be a concerted effort nationally by some individuals and groups to accuse school districts of promoting Critical Race Theory by using fake news, scare tactics, and a false narrative that is not based on the facts about what is happening in our district programs.

For example:

  • We have stated numerous times that we are not implementing Critical Race Theory, but individuals continue to share this false narrative.
  • We have emphasized that we will not engage in “white shaming” or referring to all white people as racist, however, this accusation continues to be inaccurately repeated.
  • We are not trying to adopt materials from the Teaching Tolerance website (Learning for Justice) verbatim, yet individuals continue to intentionally spread this inaccurate message.
  • We have also clearly and emphatically stated that the Social Justice Standards are a stand-alone set of guideposts for teachers and administrators to use that are voluntary, but some people have complained wrongly that they are mandatory and that we are approving everything under the Teaching Tolerance website (Learning for Justice).

Our goal is to prepare and empower all of our students to be competitive and thrive in an increasingly diverse and complicated society. We are confident that our new elective course, social justice standards for teachers and administrators, and culturally responsive teaching techniques will assist us in our efforts to achieve this objective.