A Message of Inclusion and Belonging

By Victor Lagunes

Editor’s note: The following comments were delivered by teacher and DTA President Victor Lagunes on Thursday at the School Board Meeting.

I would normally tell my students that if they’re going to be presenting professionally, that they should be wearing professional dress. And I have broken that rule, but I think I’ve done so in good spirit.

Good evening everyone. President Darrah, trustees, Superintendent Best. Unfortunately we don’t have student trustees, but I hope they’re doing well in closing out the year well. And then everybody that’s here in chambers and tuning in virtually.

The role of Davis Teacher Association is to advocate for what is best for our students, our educators, and our schools contract enforcement negotiations, quite obviously, I think, and general advocacy all towards the safety, wellbeing, and progress of the aforementioned.

There’s a lot going on, right, that we could discuss right now, especially and even being at the end of the year, issues that require immediate attention for our vision for the future.

But instead, I’d like to use this time at the podium this evening to start with a bit of a personal story and perhaps some lessons we can learn from the classroom.

My niece, who is in another state, had her last day of school today. Unfortunately, it got canceled. All the festivities, the congratulations, parting words of thanks and gratitude, it was just the, the goodbyes, they got canceled and it wasn’t for anything necessarily that bad. The power went out.

I thought to myself, what a horrible way for a young person to finish out the year. Thinking of my own students not being able to say goodbye to me and me to them if they care about that, but definitely for them to say goodbye to their friends and each other.

Unfortunately, that last thought left me thinking about how we perhaps here have not been able to have a positive end to our year. Our students, families and staff, our schools have not had the positivity that we would hope, and instead some having been, been met with intimidation, being othered and feelings of insecurity when we should be feeling quite the opposite. Pride.

Schools are focal points for community. They serve as the center around which we organize the lives of our youth and how in turn they organize our lives. And the community is created between the students, educators, families, guardians, the public. It’s one that has to be welcoming.

So a lesson from the classroom. Our educators welcome every student. They celebrate diversity. We see each of them, try our best to understand who they are and what they want to be, and invite them to be included and participate as we try and guide them in that direction.

These are not lessons just for the youth in our schools. They’re not lessons that stop at the graduation ceremony there for us all to carry on afterwards. Because just as educators don’t choose the students in our classrooms to educate, we cannot choose the members of our community that we wish to include. We are all here and we all get to be included.

What we’re talking about is humanity, the knowledge that we are all in this together and better for it, and that humanity is central to community, not just ours, but any.

The degree to which we welcome, include, embrace, support, love, and ultimately understand each other is the degree to which we measure our collective strength and our resilience.

Discourse and the open exchange of ideas based on mutual respect rather than passive aggressive or even aggressive actions based on ignorance, especially when considering the identities of those who have been historically marginalized and excluded.

These are the ways our educators build community in the classroom, and again, a lesson learned from the classroom. These are the same ways we can strengthen our own community. I started by coming up here saying I was saddened by the fact that we didn’t end the year with some positivity, but perhaps I was wrong.

Perhaps seeing the community here embracing these ideas with each other, acting in solidarity, and coming here to show what they value most, that we must include everyone that we all belong. Perhaps this is the positive end that we were looking for. So I thank everyone that came out this evening for reminding me of that. Thank you.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Todd Edelman

    Wow, a wonderful statement on how to make individuals and communities strong!

    Legunes makes a clear point about the lack of student trustees in the school board — and it’s clear that there are other opportunities for representation from students/ people not of majority age:

    * I believe that it’s possible for us to lower the voting age, at least for local offices and initiatives to 16.

    * The ex-officio position in the Human Relations Commission has been vacant for a long time.

    * No other commissions have high school student ex-officio slots – these could be most useful in, for example, Social Services. Parks, NRC and BTSSC. (NRC relates to the regular youth led climate protests, and it’s my understanding that they have been mostly ignored by the grups=led establishment, and in regards to the BTSSC, it’s still not clear if the minimum age for the soon to be announced return of bike share and introduction of scooter share will have a lower age limit than 18, just like many other communities around the state and the country.)


    1. Hiram Jackson

      Todd Edelman: ‘Legunes makes a clear point about the lack of student trustees in the school board…’

      There have been student trustees on the Davis school board since the mid-1970’s.  There are currently 2 student trustees on the Davis school board, one representing Davis HS, the other Da Vinci HS.  Often they show up at the start of regular meetings to make comments during trustee comment time and may leave after initial public comment, depending on what’s going on with their lives — homework, school activities, etc.

      1. Todd Edelman

        Yes, thanks… I have seen student trustees in attendance previously  –  I was not at this meeting and see that he’s only referring to this meeting…. Apologies and I still think that the rest of my comment is valid.

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