As we move forward in our process with the Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD), I reflect on this week’s parsha, Shelach (Numbers 13:1-15:41) and its central message, that there is value in navigating adversity and using its lessons to set in motion a different future.
As a parent of three public school-educated children, I greatly respect and value the public education system and its significant role in our children’s lives. Given the difficult climate of these times, it is important, therefore, to remember the power of words to influence students and educators.
As you are likely aware, Federation has been meeting with Santa Ana Unified School District leadership to address concerns about antisemitic course content that is biased and stigmatizing of Israelis and Jews. We take seriously the concern that course content has the potential to institutionalize anti-Jewish sentiment and foster an environment that foments hate in the classroom.
SAUSD Superintendent Jerry Almendarez has confirmed that Ethnic Studies World Geographies will not be offered in the 2023-2024 school year and further stated that “the aim of our course is to provide a comprehensive, balanced representation of global history within the scope of AB 101, and it is not our intention to target or misrepresent any one group.”
We appreciate SAUSD recognizing our concerns regarding the course content in World Geographies. This week we have also provided a review of the Ethnic Studies Curriculum, done in partnership with the Institute of Curriculum Services, to SAUSD’s leadership team that provides recommendations for strengthening the ethnic studies curriculum by addressing other ethnic studies course content that we believe violates AB 101 and Section 220 of the Educational Code. Our intention is to ensure that course content is not biased against Israel and does not stigmatize Jews. Toward this outcome, we are exploring ways of partnering with SAUSD in developing a deeper understanding of how antisemitism manifests in schooling, as a way to strengthen the District’s ability to deliver an inclusive ethnic studies curriculum. As we work with the District in good faith, we and our community partners remain vigilant in the event we are unable to achieve an acceptable outcome.
We are grateful to our Jewish community partners - organizations and individual leaders - who have been working in partnership with Federation locally and nationally. We are hopeful that by working together through the adversity we can achieve a mutually beneficial outcome that will strengthen our communities. We can only walk this path responsibly if we do so together, with careful examination of content and wording. In so doing, we will help to mold the most thoughtful, tolerant, and educated youth to be the pride of SAUSD, Orange County, and California.
Chair of the Board