As a Clovis Mom, I was shocked about a recent incident report that was filed and leaked to the local Fresno media. A teacher telling a student to go back to your country truly saddens me. Although my children have graduated from Clovis Unified, I remain in contact with several administrators, parents, and teachers. Clovis Schools are in no way shape or form perfect. They strive to get better and have an amazing success academically with its students. No one will argue that. More often than not I find myself defending Clovis Unified because there is a perception that Clovis schools are racist and have a lot more money than other neighboring school districts in Fresno County.
I have a gut feeling that this is an isolated incident and that teacher appears to have been reprimanded. One thing I know and learned about Clovis administrators is that they don’t put up with intolerant behavior like this from its employees.
Kelly Avants, Clovis Unified School District’s Chief Communication Officer, stated that, “Students have the right to not stand during the Pledge of Allegiance. Teachers are directed to remain neutral in their speech and behavior while representing the district.”
Avants continued, “Our goal is the creation of a secure learning environment that allows students to fully engage in the educational process free from political or religious partiality. If a student feels compelled to opt out of the daily patriotic observance it is his/her right to do so and a staff member should not directly interfere with the student’s exercise of free speech.”
There was a formal email sent out to media outlets that was shared with me and it included Avants stating, “Additionally, a student would not be disciplined for peacefully electing to opt out of a patriotic observance. This type of situation is very similar to our long-standing allowances for students whose religious beliefs preclude them from participating in patriotic observances.”
The district also will not comment on the individual teacher’s behavior as it is a personnel matter.
I know for a fact that the district has invested plenty of resources to cultural sensitivity training for not just its certificated staff but also its classified staff. What irritates me the most is that the Fresno Bee always somehow manages to make Clovis Schools look bad. It’s no wonder, former Superintendent Dr. Walt Buster directed his staff to start its own school newspaper to highlight ALL of the GOOD that Clovis Schools do.
“It pays for itself,” he said to me after the district rolled out the first issue about 20 years ago. The district has made tremendous efforts to celebrate and embrace multiculturalism. CUSD Today, Clovis Unified’s newspaper, shows multiculturalism on its front page with pictures of students showcasing and sharing “Our World Through Dance.”
In that same issue, Clovis Unified’s Superintendent highlights the district’s cultural proficiency work. I’ve known Superintendent O’Farrell since she was an elementary school teacher. She was instrumental in helping establish the district’s first Multicultural Awareness Club (MAC), that other schools throughout the school district adopted. It was a parent/teacher club in which all that attended gained a better cultural understanding of one another and my children also participated. Every meeting included a hands on activity so that the students along with the parents and teachers would learn about a specific ethnic background.
At the district level, Clovis has a Committee called, Intercultural Diversity Awareness Committee (IDAC). It was already in place when my children were attending school. It was originally formed because a group of parents were concerned about a racial incident and the district’s racial bias. Clovis never denied the racial incident, and its answer was to do something about it. IDAC’s role has evolved throughout the years, and I am so glad that it still exists. I had numerous opportunities as a volunteer parent to participate in IDAC’s cultural competency reviews at various schools throughout the district, and I was impressed at how much Clovis Unified has done to embrace multiculturalism. I am also aware that most school districts do not have an IDAC as a vehicle because I have mentioned it throughout the years, and the reaction is what school district is this? How do I find out about it?
Two suggestions I have for parents:
- When or if you do have a racial incident occur at your child’s school, go through the proper channels and processes in order to rectify it as opposed to leaking it to the media. When my son was called the ‘N’ word on the football field and he shared it with me, I immediately told the Athletic Director, and that player was reprimanded.
- Get involved more and get to know your child’s teacher and/or administrators even if you are working full-time, like I was when my children were in school. The schools no matter what district will only benefit from your feedback and participation. You and your child are a part of the culture that makes it exist, and the school cannot exist without your child’s attendance.