The South Pasadena Unified School District (SPUSD) “desires to provide a safe school environment that allows all students equal access and opportunities in the district’s academic and educational support programs, services, arts, athletics and activities.”
That’s the opening sentence in a resolution adopted by the Board of Education this week declaring that the lives of black students matter, as well as the lives of all underserved students in the local school district.
The school board unanimously approved the resolution on Tuesday following the death of George Floyd by a member the Minneapolis Police Department on May 25. Derek Chauvin, a white officer, kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while a handcuffed Floyd was lying face down against the pavement begging for his life, repeatedly saying: “I can’t breathe.” Three other Minneapolis officers witnessed the killing. All four officers were fired the following day.
Similar resolutions have been passed by school districts and city councils across the U.S.
SPUSD Board President Michele Kipke along with fellow board members Suzie Abajian, Jon Primuth, Zahir Robb and Ruby Kalra unanimously supported the two-page document brought before them as part of the virtual meeting.
Protests in response to both Floyd’s death, and more broadly to police violence against other black individuals, quickly spread across the country and to other parts of the world. Peaceful demonstrations have been held in South Pasadena in recent weeks.
As described in the resolution, the local school board “prohibits, at any district school or school activity, unlawful discrimination, including discriminatory harassment, intimidation, and/or bullying of any student, based on actual or perceived characteristics of race or ethnicity, color, nationality, national origin, immigration status, ethnic group identification, age, religion, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or gender expression.”
South Pasadena Unified School District, points out the proclamation, joins cities, counties, and states across the country in affirming a commitment to the safety and well-being of black people, to combating hate crimes and institutional racism, and to an education free from discrimination.
“The resolution is an opportunity for the board to make a collective statement regarding the circumstances related to Mr. George Floyd’s death,” said SPUSD Superintendent Geoff Yantz. “It’s an opportunity for the board to reaffirm their values and our intention for curriculum in our schools, the type of environment and atmosphere the board expects and has a desire to foster. While it may seem like just words on a paper, it serves as a very important statement that the school board supports and provides reaffirmation for our administration, our teachers and support staff to follow.”
The local school district has adopted a course of study to “foster a culture of safety and affirmation of our students’ differing backgrounds and race such as examining cultural diversity and identity for all ninth grade students,” reads the resolution.
In addition, as stated in the moving words, “South Pasadena Unified School District will continue its efforts to provide a safe and welcoming school environment for all students, working with community non-profit organizations and other government agencies.”
Prior to Tuesday’s board meeting, Kipke sent a message to the community on behalf of the South Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education, writing in part: “I want to comment on what has been one of the most painful times in recent memory. During the past few weeks, we have witnessed blatant acts of racism and police brutality, touched off by the horrific and senseless deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, among others. These events remind us that anti-black racism is alive and well and continues to plague all corners of our country and our society. We stand with the citizens of South Pasadena and throughout the nation who are protesting and saying enough is enough. Enough of the anti-Black racism. Enough of the persistent and institutionalized racism that holds all people of color back. Enough of the police harassment, brutality and killing of unarmed black men and women. Enough of the lack of accountability. Police officers, sworn to serve and protect, must be held accountable for their crimes. Racism, in any form and against any group, can no longer be tolerated.”