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Newport-Mesa reveals plan to implement Human Relations Task Force’s recommendations

A community member writes what she thinks the goals of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District’s new Human Relations Task Force should be during its first meeting on March 27, 2019.
A community member writes what she thinks the goals of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District’s Human Relations Task Force should be during a meeting March 27.
(File Photo)

Additional training, workshops, field trips and exhibits are on tap for students and staff in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District as the district works to carry out the recommendations of its Human Relations Task Force.

The 2019-20 implementation plan, unveiled Friday, includes most of the concepts the task force presented to the district board of trustees in July — four months after photos taken at an off-campus party in Costa Mesa showed Newport-Mesa students giving Nazi salutes over a swastika made out of red plastic cups as part of a drinking game.

For students, the plan includes visits to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, a week-long showing of the exhibit “Courage to Remember: The Holocaust 1933-1945" at the district’s four comprehensive high schools, inclusive lunch menus and implementation of a read-aloud program using “developmentally appropriate children’s books that address unity, empathy and understanding of difference.”

It also calls for increased student leader training and participation in the UC Irvine Diversity, Inclusion & Racial Healing High School Ambassador Program.

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The plan includes changes to faculty practices, including implicit bias training, a Museum of Tolerance educator workshop, Holocaust curriculum training and other staff development.

“It’s about educating … about our differences and what makes the United States a great place. It should be about what unites us, not what divides us,” Kirk Bauermeister, district executive director of secondary education, said Wednesday.

The district also plans a community night for parents to visit the “Courage to Remember” exhibit and to continue hosting community workshops. Suggestions for future topics to address are bullying, technology use and special-education services.

“We’ve kind of broken [the plan] down into different areas. It’s about what we’re doing for our students, doing for our student leaders, doing for our staff and what we are doing for our community,” Bauermeister said.

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“For the younger ages, kindergarten through third [grade], it’s more about teaching kids about kindness, empathy and compassion. ... And then as they get older and age-appropriate, we start talking about ... diversity and inclusion and the other side of that, the bigotry and the hate and the things we see out in the community and in the news. ... We want to give them the tools to stand up and say, ‘This isn’t right.’”

The Human Relations Task Force, which was officially formed in April, will continue to meet bi-monthly through the current school year and will evaluate in June whether the programs worked and should continue in 2020-21.

Teresa Neighbors, a lecturer in social sciences and co-director of the Summer Academic Enrichment Program at UCI, will help Newport-Mesa evaluate the effectiveness of the plan, according to a statement from the district.

“This is about standing together as a school community against bigotry and hate,” Bauermeister said. “This isn’t just a Newport-Mesa Unified School District issue. It’s not even just a Newport Beach or Costa Mesa issue. It’s worldwide.”

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Updates:
1:22 PM, Nov. 27, 2019: This article was originally published at 12:33 p.m. and has been updated with additional information.

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