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Students speak at RBUSD Board Meeting on Sept. 27 about diversity curriculum, vaccine mandates and transgender rights

During the RBUSD Board Meeting on Sept. 27, several students, parents, and community members discussed vaccine and mask mandates and the involvement of the Race and Equity Committee’s (REC) involvement in curriculum adaptation.

 Dr. Susan Wildes, Assistant Superintendent, presented the process through which adaptations are made to the curriculum in light of the adaptations in process for the ELA curriculum that involves the possible Critical Race Theory influence. 

Vaccine and mask mandates were recurring controversial topics. Parents either fought to implement additional, stricter protection mandates, or fewer. Seniors Michael Lee-Chang and David Oplatka also made their voices and concerns heard. 

“I stand here before you representing the students who are thoroughly disappointed. Since the first day of school, we’ve had an average of two cases a day, yet there’s parents who want to get rid of the mask mandate at our school. That’s insanity. We are not even required to wear masks outdoors,” Lee-Chang said. 

“Now that the FDA has approved the Pfizer vaccine for individuals 16 years of age and older, I see no reason why we should treat this vaccine any differently than we treat the polio vaccine for kindergarten and for the tetanus and chickenpox vaccine in seventh grade,” Oplatka said. 

On the flip side, parents argued for the removal of the mask mandate because it is a “student’s choice whether or not to wear one.” 

The involvement of the Race and Equity Committee (REC) in curriculums and critical race theory sparked dialogue. A handful of parents spoke out against the adaptations to curriculum, while teachers and parents encouraged these changes. Kimberlee Isaacs, a member of REC, spoke to clear up misinformation and misinterpretations of the committee’s goals.

“We’ve got to teach accurate history. That’s not indocturation. That is the truth. Excellence equals equity, and we have to make sure that every single one of those children that come from different backgrounds feel heard, seen and respected at school,” Isaacs said. Freshman Tatum Cunningham expressed her beliefs and encouraged the changes being considered for the curriculum. 

 “Students should graduate knowing our history, not a white person’s history, not a Black person’s history, not Latino’s history, just our history of America,” Cunningham said. “Some may have come here today to try and protect their kids, but by doing so they are only hurting them and denying them these opportunities. Please, for the sake of our future, move forward with these changes.”

Senior Ethan Lavellee also spoke about numerous topics regarding discrimination issues at school, COVID safety and social justice inclusion into the curriculum. 

“It is important to teach people accurate American history and to not whitewash it to make all these people feel good,” Lavellee said. Those who spoke out against these changes claim that race has no place at school and that the inclusion of Critical Race Theory is “indoctrination” and will teach students a “strictly liberal” view on American history. 

For an opportunity to speak, or to hear more about these prominent issues in the district, visit the RBUSD website or attend the next board meeting on Oct. 12 at five in the evening.