Tamalpais Union High School District Board of Trustees postpones vote on District Anti-Racism Policy to June 14

May 26, 2022

On May 24, 2022, the Tamalpais Union High School District’s Board of Trustees conducted a second reading of the Racial Justice Task Force’s (RJTF) Anti-Racist Policy. The RJTF is a committee of parents, students, staff and community members that collaborate to promote and advance racial equity within the district. The creation of the policy was mandated by Resolution No. 20-1 in support of anti-racist education, which was passed by the Board of Trustees on Sept. 8, 2020, with a unanimous vote. The resolution called for the formation of the RJTF as well as an anti-racist policy. This new policy was generated over the past two years by the RJTF, with significant contributions from students, staff, community members and racial equity consultants. The policy establishes procedures for administration and staff members to rectify acts of racism and white supremacy on district campuses and also contains a concise statement that expresses zero tolerance for racism. Ultimately, the Board elected to move the vote of approval to the next meeting, June 14, 2022, when Board of Trustees President Karen Loebbaka, who was absent at the recent meeting, will be in attendance. 

    The first reading of the policy was at a Board meeting on May 10, 2022, in which the policy and its purpose were briefly introduced. A two-week period between the first and second reading allowed for Superintendent Tara Taupier to consult legal counsel on the language that may present legal liabilities. The counsel found only one minor legal issue with the wording of the policy, though additional, non-legal edits were made. 

    Trustees Dan Oppenheim and Kevin Saavedra took issue with several other aspects of the policy, particularly the glossary and bibliography included in the conclusion.

    “I wouldn’t support anything with the bibliography or the glossary at all,” Saavedra said. “I don’t think we should be outsourcing our opinions to a bunch of books that I haven’t read.”

    Echoing Saavedra’s sentiments, Oppenheim stated that the glossary included “non-standard definitions.” 

    The second reading was scheduled as one of the last items on the agenda and was dedicated 30 minutes of time, prompting both Saavedra and Oppenheim to motion to postpone the policy’s vote to a later special meeting dedicated exclusively to a discussion of the policy. 

    “I think this is one of the more consequential things we’re going to do this year. You think it needs to be [voted on] now; I disagree. I think current events warrant a larger conversation about this policy and racism in general. I don’t think we should [decide] in 25 minutes,” Saavedra said in the meeting. “I would like to actually spend more than a half an hour talking about this. I’m not ready to take any action here.”

    In contrast, Trustee Cynthia Roenisch, who has attended multiple RJTF meetings, believed that the urgency of the topic was enough to forgo edits to the policy. 

    “I think it’s disrespectful to the work that the subcommittee has done. I think it’s disrespectful to students’ experience and staff’s experience. I’m going to call it a delay tactic,” Roenisch said. 

    Approximately a dozen current and former TUHSD students were in attendance at the meeting in support of RJTF’s policy, along with numerous community members and District staff. Within the first minutes of the discussion, one fact was clear: the Board was split. During the public comment portion of the discussion, many community members gave testimonials on their experiences with racism within the district in the hopes of swaying members of the Board. 

    Among them was co-leader of the RJTF’s policy subcommittee Ruby-Rose Amezcua, a student of color at Tamalpais High School and President of the Students Organized Against Racism.

“The systemic issues have been in place for so long that we cannot wait to find a solution,” Amezcua said. “Please help us. We are imploring you to do something.” 

Infographic by Caitlin Beard

Archie Williams alumnus and active member of the RJTF, Jack Parnell-Wolfe, also spoke at the meeting over Zoom. 

“White supremacy is very much alive in all of our spaces … If we can’t support things that [students] are asking us to support to change that reality, then we are actively harming them,” Parnell-Wolfe said.

After several emotional statements from community members and lingering debate among Board Trustees, Superintendent Taupier concluded the discussion by validating students’ hard work to produce the policy over the past two years.

“[The policy] is the delivery of a promise we made to the community with our resolution and I think it’s really important that it passes,” Taupier said. 

Board member Leslie Harlander’s final remark was a statement directed to the students that promised to continue fighting for the RJTF’s policy.

“I think we’re doing harm by not taking action tonight,” Harlander said. “We heard you loud and clear when you said, ‘help us.’”

Students in the Tam Union High School District can attend the Board of Trustees meeting on June 14 at 6 p.m. at the Krepps Conference Center to voice any opinions on the policy, or join the meeting here. Please note that all the quotes included above were sourced from the meeting recording which can be accessed here

 

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