During public comment at Tuesday’s city council meeting, a mother came forward to speak of her six-year-old daughter’s treatment at Montgomery Elementary School.
“Recently, just attending Davis School District, she has learned to identify herself in ways of her ethnicity, which I didn’t teach her,” said the mother. “I was pretty surprised by some of the things she was saying.”
“Just this semester she began labeling herself as well as others,” she continued. “I’ve never taught her that before. She’s been teased regarding her hair, amongst other things.”
The mother continued, “She has also been treated differently by her teachers and her principal.”
“Recently, she has been punched in the stomach, she has been exposed to someone’s genital area as well as her hair has been cut from that same person,” she explained.
The mother said she has spoken with the teacher, the principal, the superintendent, “and they have done nothing in order to resolve this issue especially with the boy in particular.”
“I have also requested that she be removed from the class and that has actually been denied,” she continued. “As a UC Davis student, I have become aware of the long history of racial problems in Davis. I understand the city of Davis is taking steps to improve the cultural climate and I’m hoping that the efforts would extent to the school climate.”
She asked the city council what they would be able to do to help her.
Mayor Dan Wolk let her know that, while the council was not able to act on her comments, she was directed to speak with City Manager Dirk Brazil, who spoke with her outside as did Councilmember Rochelle Swanson.
The comment comes just days after the city’s Human Relations Commission held their third annual Breaking the Silence event where over a dozen people came forward to discuss a variety of issues that impacted them in the community.
One of the panelists, Jennifer Mullen, talked about programs that the district had implemented, including at Montgomery.
She talked about the move toward more a restorative-based approached. She said that the theme “restorative” is “the major focus in the school district right now. We are working towards building capacity for understanding in the district for restorative practices, by training teachers and students and staff.”
“Our intention in that is really to make a paradigm shift,” she said. “It’s not just a set of tools or programs, but it really is a shift in thinking.” They want to “create safe spaces for dialogues” to “have conversations and to really listen to one another, hear each other’s narratives and stories.”
Newly-elected school board member Madhavi Sunder noted, “Hate is not a DJUSD value.”
“School climate is a high priority,” she said. “In fact, it is the priority when you talk to principals and teachers. The community recognizes if students do not feel safe and welcome, they cannot learn and thrive.”
School climate, she said is safety and the relationships with peers, teachers and counselors. She said they are taking a holistic look at what climate is. She talked about a lot of the programs that are currently offered at some of the schools.
Ms. Sunder said, “A new direction that we’re going (is) restorative justice programs. When you look at the literature on school to prison pipelines and what is one effective way of breaking out of that – the idea of restorative justice, bringing the parties together to help develop mutual understanding.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting