As of the 2019-2020 school year, the La Canada School District, LCUSD, has implemented the Diversity, Race, and Inclusivity (DEI) initiative. The initiative focuses on addressing key areas such as discipline, policies, curriculum, school activities, and involvements in order to promote those core values and enforce the community within schools.
The district hired Christina Hale-Elliot, the founder and principal consultant of Elliott Educational Services, to help develop the initiative. Its goals were emphasized to be “strategic, intentional, and sustainable” and not “performative, surface, or unexacting work.”
To address the initiative’s goals, the team behind the initiative developed a family learning series and teachers’ professional development sessions. Schools have held several parent and teacher workshops, categorized by grades and departments, about topics such as responding to hate in online school and speaking up about race. The team also conducted a school-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion strengths and needs assessment report, which was completed by the end of the 2019-2020 school year. Mrs. Hale-Elliot interviewed several students, conducted surveys and spoke to classes and administration about their experiences within the school.
The report emphasizes the noticeable demographic differences of La Canada compared to Los Angeles County, with much larger numbers of White and Asian members, nearly 50% and 30% of the population, respectively, and significantly lower numbers of Hispanic/Latino or Black members, who make up less than 9% and 1% of the community, respectively. It analyzed teachers’ and students’ attitudes towards certain groups and identities. The report then provided insight into how certain needs should be tailored to match LCHS’s student demographics.
In response to the report and recommendations, the administration has begun implementing workshops, training, and discussion forums for students, working in conjunction with the Educational Services Department, to create a goal for 2020-2021 to address this work.
As part of the project, the team also curated a list of resources on the district website that include resources for staff development and curriculum, books for adults, books for children, articles, and PDFs. The extensive list combines sources that address race, stereotyping, prejudice, discrimination and more.
Along with these improvements, the school administration has also changed its handling of DEI. The values of DEI are emphasized in nearly every email sent out, including any reports, newsletters and updates. The administration has also organized a Principal’s Steering Committee for the 2020-21 school year, which involves students in the DEI initiative. The committee has been discussing key issues and ways to change the school culture to be more welcoming and open, as well as providing feedback and suggestions to the administration.
The DEI initiative is an important step towards a more inclusive community within La Canada schools. The district will continue to implement policies and changes to further the values in the remainder of the school year, as well as years following.