Glendale Unified board members voted unanimously to observe Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action in February.
Black Lives Matter at School is a nationwide effort and part of Glendale Unified’s goal to recognize “the rich culture, contributions and value of our African American students and community members” and it would be “an annual week of action, affirmation and solidarity,” according to the final draft of the resolution.
Although Glendale Unified has honored Martin Luther King Jr. in January and Black History Month in February, the resolution comes after students, parents and community members voiced concerns in previous board meetings about perceived racist treatment of black students throughout the district.
“The intention of the resolution is to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights movement and respect and embrace the communities that have been historically underrepresented,” said Jennifer Freemon, president of the Glendale school board.
She continued, “The resolution doesn’t specifically endorse a group or organization, but it invites our entire community to join together in our commitment to providing a welcoming, supportive learning environment that prepares every student for success in college and future careers.”
Educators from Edison Elementary, Roosevelt Middle and Hoover High presented details on current inclusivity efforts through service projects, anti-bias programs, classroom lesson activities with a holistic approach to history and Black Student Union events.
The efforts were echoed during public comment by a local parent, Tasha Jenkins-Morgan, who said she noticed after the board discussed the resolution in the last meeting, “the climate at the school has lightened.” She observed students celebrating each other and teachers who are uncomfortable “trying to do the work.”
Glendale parent Ingrid Gunnell clarified the differences between Black Lives Matter week and Black History Month.
The week has “active goals instead of passive goals. They are to end zero tolerance, mandate black history and ethnic studies, hire more black teachers and fund counselors, not cops. They are very intentional. They are very peaceful. They are very pro-children and pro-student and pro-community,” Gunnell said.
Glendale Teachers Assn. president Taline Arsenian fully supported the resolution and the specific Black Lives Matter Week goals on behalf of the association.
Tanita Harris-Ligons, co-founder of Black in Glendale, directed critique to board member Greg Krikorian based on his Jan. 14 board meeting comments regarding the resolution.
“I would never come to you and say, ‘by the way one of my good friends is Armenian’ or begin to tell you ... my history in this community of Glendale with Armenians,” Harris-Ligons said. “I would simply listen and hear you to understand.”
She added, “I’m saying this because our leadership — how they respond to us is important, how they respond to our students is important. You send a message to our teachers and our teachers send a message to our students. So send a clear message that you hear [students] and understand them. If you don’t [understand them], then you need to do some work.”
In response, Krikorian said, “Obviously there is a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of some comments, maybe taking things out of context. I know where my heart, feelings and character [are] as a man, as a father. We always look for unity in bringing everyone together.”
He continued, “We could all disagree with each others’ statements, but it’s how you come together afterwards and how you move forward as a community.”
Although the resolution was expected to pass based on the board’s prior discussion, Jenkins-Morgan also expressed concerns over a mix of social media comments against and for the resolution passing after a Glendale News-Press article was published.
Board clerk Shant Sahakian later added, “I will say some of the comments that I’ve seen online from our fellow community members only reaffirms why we need this resolution and why we need all the actions and all the steps that the resolution pencils out because clearly we have work to do.”