How Some San Diego County Educators Learn About Fairness


Schools’ efforts to tackle racism and improve diversity and inclusion have come under fire this year by parents and political groups who have accused schools of propagating critical race theory, a college-level discipline that analyzes how the law perpetuated institutional racial discrimination.

One effort that has come under attack is the equity department of the San Diego County Office of Education, a four-year office that has worked with 95 schools and a dozen school districts, training them in equity efforts. Among them are Coronado Unified, Del Mar Union, Encinitas Union Elementary, Lakeside Union Elementary, Mountain Empire Unified, Poway Unified, San Dieguito Union High, and Solana Beach Elementary.

Fabiola Bagula is Senior Equity Director in the San Diego County Office of Education.

(Courtesy of the San Diego County Office of Education)

Fabiola Bagula, county office director of equity, said the goal of equity training is to address disparities in academic achievement, especially when it comes to graduation. secondary.

Latin, black, low-income students learning English, special education students, and the homeless all have graduation rates significantly below the county average. About 40 percent of San Diego County high school graduates do not qualify for admission to public universities in California.

Bagula said the county’s training is not universal, but is tailored to the needs of each school and district, student demographics, and what the school or district wants to improve.

“We just want to make sure they know they can change, that they can improve… so that every student gets a meaningful degree and a life filled with choice,” Bagula said of schools.

The department also trains state leaders and staff in other county education offices, Bagula said. The Union-Tribune asked him what the training consisted of.

What happens in equity training?

Bagula: There is a lot of misinformation about what we do and what we don’t. One element of misinformation is that it is divisive. This is not true, it is actually about looking into our humanity, understanding each other – how could we work together for the best positive conditions for students.

We are doing an activity on the importance of saying someone’s name correctly. Our name is important to our identity. Children need and like their names to be pronounced correctly; it’s a way of seeing them as a full child.

There is another activity we are doing on 14 definitions of fairness. I don’t start writing or revising a definition, but instead we offer them all. There are a lot of different perspectives; we’re talking about who we agree and disagree with.

I had a school community last week, around 85 attendees, talk about how when we welcome students coming from China, we assume their parents are teachers at UCSD … and when we get a new one student from Guatemala, we make the assumptions that their parents work in the fields, and the way we welcome these students (is) different. We need to think about how we welcome each child with joy.

There is a lot of that sort of thing about the state of mind. In education, there is an elaborate labeling system that occurs, like language acquisition, grades, scores, if they have a (special education plan) … and then all of them the labels we have immediately create a state of mind for the educator. Are we trying to talk about your state of mind when you get a listing? How can this state of mind sometimes get in the way? How do you see who (the students) really are and maybe not that label that was given to this kid in grade two who doesn’t serve them?

How can schools address disparities in academic achievement?

Bagula: When I work with schools, I ask where are your support systems … For staff, it would take the time to actually study their data and examine and leverage each other’s strengths. It has to be done during their working hours to say, how do we do with some kids but not with others? For the students that would mean things like speeding up, things like drama and drama, which bring joy, which can help bring about language acquisition.

What misconceptions do you hear about your training? How do you approach controversial topics?

Bagula: The first is that it divides and shames and blames people. We are not trying in any form to blame or make any guilt over a group of people. What we’re trying to do is have a radical love for our schools, a radical love for our students.

There are certain words that immediately trigger systems and beliefs. One of them was the implicit bias. We take research into our brains and talk about it from the perspective of these proven behaviors that we all have. It doesn’t mean that we are bad people; it does not mean that we are racist. My favorite that I’m still falling prey to is the hyperbolic discount – we pick the earliest reward over the bigger, later reward, like Netflix binging when I have to be up at 7. We all have these behaviors, and so a lot of these prejudices don’t hurt anyone, but some do.

We think it’s important that people have the language and the definition. For the privilege, we start with the left-handed and right-handed privilege. I’m right-handed, but I remember walking into those college hallways with my left-handed roommate who must have been awkwardly positioned.

We’ve all been in places where part of our identity has been marginalized, all of us. We’re really trying to get people to understand them under the socio-political noise that is going on, and understand how it divides and how to understand the concept of one thing that will unify us.


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