Clovis Unified takes a stand for social justice

Following a series of racial and inappropriate social media posts by Clovis Unified students, the school board adopted resolution No. 3615 at its Oct. 25 board meeting to affirm expectations and policies to create a learning environment characterized by mutual respect and dignity for students regardless of their race or ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, nationality, or sexual orientation. (Photo by Ron Sundquist/Clovis Roundup)

A series of intolerant social media posts and text messages made by some Clovis Unified students the last weekend of September led the CUSD governing board to adopting a resolution at its Oct. 25 meeting, affirming the district’s expectations and policies to create a learning environment characterized by mutual respect and dignity for all students.

The resolution, No. 3615, passed unanimously and states as follows:

“Whereas, in the Clovis Unified School District our Strategic Plan anchors decision-making, policies, and actions in work to achieve a vision to be the national benchmark for excellence in education; and

Whereas, the Governing Board has established in their Strategic Plan, three aims that focus educational efforts and articulate the core values of the District to: Maximize Achievement for ALL Students; Operate with Increasing Efficiency and Effectiveness; and Hire, Train, Sustain and Value a High Quality, Diverse Workforce; and Whereas, in Clovis Unified we believe that all children deserve a fair break; and

Whereas, we believe in the value of working together as a community to bring about positive change; a belief that is promoted through policy and actions to involve parents, employees, students and the community on issues and decisions that impact our schools; and

Whereas, policies established by the Governing Board set a clear expectation that our students, regardless of their race or ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, nationality, or sexual orientation, are able to attend schools in an environment that promotes mutual respect and dignity; and

Whereas, such a learning environment is created through promotion of the six pillars of good character, including citizenship, respect, trustworthiness, responsibility, fairness, and caring;

Now therefore, let it be resolved that we do hereby proclaim and affirm the expectation of the Governing Board that the principles and values articulated in the District’s Strategic Plan and core values, and our Governing Board policies are carried out across the Clovis Unified School District so our students are treated with dignity and respect.”

Prior to the adoption of the above resolution, Clovis resident Ben Bergquam approached the podium to speak to the board about the social injustice of the students’ ownership of racial slurs against other students. In response, board member Chris Casado stated that every board member takes the issue seriously and called the board’s dedication “flawless.”

The district’s governing board was immediately aware of the intolerant comments made shortly after they occurred on the weekend of Sept. 30. In preparation for the start of the first school week of October, Superintendent Eimear O’Farrell, issued a statement to parents and families expressing the district’s heartfelt stance against the comments and ensuring parents that the district is committed to making all students feel welcome and safe in Clovis Unified.

“It is with a heavy heart that I am reaching out to our Clovis Unified community today to address an intolerable string of text messages and social media posts that came to the attention of school administrators over the weekend,” O’Farrell stated on Oct. 1. “These posts, shared among young people in the community, at least some of whom attend Clovis Unified high school, contained racially charged language and imagery directed at African Americans in general. Derogatory and inciting language such as was used in these messages has absolutely no place in our schools and is contradictory to the character and ethics we expect from our students.”

Board president Sandy Budd also released a statement in regards to the intolerant messages.

“The Board stands with the district’s leadership in condemning the sentiments and views expressed in the racially charged online comments that surfaced,” Budd said. “The messages apparently posted by some of our students are intolerable and counter to the mutual respect and good character we seek to develop in our school communities. The Board supports the steps already put into motion within Clovis Unified to ensure students feel supported and secure at school, and to promote a sense of unity and respect more representative of the true character of our students.”

After receiving feedback from the community, Dr. O’Farrell issues another statement on Oct. 10, thanking parents and citizens for sharing their concerns and calling the community to move forward in unity.

“In Clovis Unified we believe in accountability, and we will hold ourselves accountable to foster a culture of mutual respect in our school communities,” O’Farrell said. “We are inspired by the level of engagement from across our community on this important issue, and by the level of commitment to working together as we move ahead.”