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Local unions plan rallies against Trump, L.A. schools announce Unity Day 2017

Bikers for Trump

Teachers unions plan protests against President-elect Donald Trump across the Southland on Thursday, while Los Angeles school officials, concerned about student walkouts, have declared that Friday will be Unity Day 2017.

Trump will be inaugurated Friday in Washington, D.C. as the nation’s 45th president.

United Teachers Los Angeles and a parent organization, the National Education Assn., expect faculty protests at 300 to 350 campuses, mostly before school. Primary locations include Grand View Boulevard Elementary in Mar Vista and Arleta High School.

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The union is not urging students or faculty to walk out of class.

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“We’re not condoning leaving school,” said Anna Bakalis, director of communications. “We just want to encourage the action for our teachers to participate in tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, L.A. Unified is preaching unity, although not necessarily solidarity, behind the new president.

“Unity Day is an opportunity for students, for schools, to focus their instructional time or day on topics that are pertinent to their schools and community, and to learn about how government works, the electoral process,” said Judy Chiasson, a coordinator with the district’s Office of Human Relations, Diversity and Equity. “And learning how they’ll be able to watch the inauguration if they want to.”

The district has put together a web page with lesson plans from such organizations as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. Altogether, they strike a neutral tone, while recognizing that emotions and concerns among students might be high — and that not all student encounters will be mutually tolerant.

“An example of effective neutrality is when an educator facilitates a discussion between students so both sides of an argument can be represented,” writes Rosalind Wiseman, in a piece posted on the linked ADL site. “And that is what schools should be about: learning to engage in constructive dialogue and hear different points of view.”

But she adds: “A teacher isn’t being ‘neutral’ by not intervening when a student chants: ‘Build the wall!’ or any of the other similar exclamations we have heard since the presidential election. Using this rhetoric is disrespectful to others’ history, identity, experience and perspective. Said another way: You can’t be neutral when someone is being disrespectful or using bigoted language….  [Y]ou look like you are siding with the bigotry.”  

The district’s news release even suggests “unity dances,” without explaining exactly what that means. 

Possible lesson plans include analyzing past inaugural addresses and comparing them to what Trump will say. In another lesson, students break down the meaning of the oath of office and try their hand at writing their own. Another lesson looks at activism and efforts of protesters, without suggesting who is right.  

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Some district officials are showing less restraint. A recent newsletter from school board President Steve Zimmer urges the public to oppose the nomination of Betsy DeVos as Trump’s secretary of Education. 

Many educators in the traditional public school system oppose DeVos because she favors providing public subsidies for students to attend private schools, among other controversial positions. 

howard.blume@latimes.com

@howardblume

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