How the nation’s second largest school district will mark the inauguration of the 45th U.S. President, Donald Trump, is a far cry from how they celebrated in 2009 when Barack Obama was sworn in for his first term as commander-in-chief.
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), “in an effort to encourage students to participate in the civic-engagement process and to promote schools as safe and appropriate venues for meaningful dialogue about the presidential election” declared January 20 as Unity Day 2017, occurring one day after planned protests.
While L.A. Unified rejoiced in the 44th President’s inauguration with streamers and balloons in patriotic colors, poetry recitations, and readings from Obama’s “Yes We Can Speech,” Trump’s inauguration eight years later takes on a “safe zone” tone.
“We hope that students will take advantage of these lessons, discussions and other Unity Day activities that will allow them to participate in the civic-engagement process during the school day,” Superintendent Michelle King said in a press release. “We want students feel part of their school, their community and their country.”
In 2009, then LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines piped in Obama’s inauguration for students, faculty, and office staff. In a two-page press release, Cortines said: “I want all students to watch, including young children in kindergarten and first grade.” He directed teachers to incorporate the inauguration into the instructional day.
For Obama, students were encouraged to wear Obama T-shirts, or red, white and blue colors to school. Some of the elementary campuses handed out bookmark and sticker participation keepsakes. According to LAUSD, a San Fernando Valley elementary school partied the entire week before Obama’s inauguration with patriotic daily activities and discussions. American flags were distributed to youngsters in classrooms decked out in American presidential themes.
However, for Trump, LAUSD will instead “think globally, act locally” on social and humanitarian concerns Friday. The district’s Office of Human Relations, Diversity and Equity provided “Responding to Post-Election Uncertainty…,” psychological first aid for election-triggered staff, parents, and caregivers. These English and Spanish flyers offer steps on how to listen, protect, and connect with student feelings of concern, fear, anger, and sadness over Trump’s presidential victory. Aside from feelings, the 1984 Supreme Court decision, Plyler v. Doe, mandated U.S. public schools must enroll all eligible children regardless of citizenship or immigration status. The LA School Report estimated 74 percent of LAUSD students are Latino, and one-fourth of the district’s roughly 640,000 students or one of their family members reside the U.S. illegally.
Most Unity Day activities center on high school students but can be used by all grade levels, according to LAUSD. They include unity dances, poster sessions, meaningful dialogue, and restorative justice circles about the presidential election. Lessons may focus on environmental, social and humanitarian topics.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) offers a host of Election 2016 Teaching Resources like “When Do Teachers Remain Neutral?,” “Teachable Moments Abound in Khizr Khan’s Convention Speech,” “11 Ways School Can Help Students Feel Safe in Challenging Times,” “9 Ways to Teach About the Election: A Social Justice Approach, and Bias in the Presidential Election. Other LAUSD coping tools include President Obama’s Farewell Address and two downloadable Morningside Center TeachableMoment lessons — “Electoral College or Popular Vote?” and “The Power of Appointment & Trump’s Controversial Nominees. “What Does the Trump Administration Mean for Climate Change?” appears on Morningside’s webpage. Other useful resources link to the leftist Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and their Teaching Tolerance project.
Breitbart Texas obtained a January 9 interoffice memo, “Instructional Guidance on the 2017 United States Presidential Inauguration,” issued to principals and teachers by LAUSD’s Chief Academic Officer Frances Gipson and Sr. Executive Director of P-12 Instruction Derrick Chau. It advised educators “while many faculty members may have strong opinions about candidates and the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, it is important to remember our responsibilities as District employees” and remain “mindful that in their role as authority figures relative to students, employees and should avoid partisanship of any kind.” The letter provides teacher resource links to the 2016 History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools and a 2005 “Safe Space” school “climate” white paper.
The non-partisan neutrality apparently follows the January 19 Tweetstorm and campus protests against Trump led by the district’s teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles. (UTLA). These demonstrations reflect opposition to Trump’s campaign promises to build a wall along the U.S. southern border and ban sanctuary cities. UTLA also called this a fight to protect public schools from purported “privatization and union busting” and is part of a national day of action led by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, which said they will not “cooperate” with Trump’s pro-school choice stance or with his alleged “hateful rhetoric and bullying of immigrant children, LGBT students, Muslims, and others.”
Although UTLA fuses the anti-illegal immigrant narrative to Trump, LAUSD declared “safe zone” status last February following an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) crackdown under the Obama Administration, the Los Angeles Times reported.
L.A. Unified has grappled with the results of the presidential election since November when city and school district officials offered communications and extended support sites for emotional counseling, attendance information, plus health insurance, and legal referrals at the district’s six local offices. King recorded a post-election statement on student demonstrations and moderated the roundtable “Education as a Pillar in Democracy,” which aired on KLCS, with encore rebroadcasts through Thanksgiving weekend.
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