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Updated SDJACL Statement Regarding April 11, 2022 Remarks at the SDUHS DEI Training Session

April 21, 2022

At the April 20, 2022 San Dieguito Union High School District board meeting, the District's board voted 3-1 to place Superintendent James-Ward on administrative leave.

Though we appreciate the community's engagement on this issue and the board's attempt to address it, we do not believe that placing Superintendent James-Ward on administrative leave (or asking for her resignation) is an appropriate response given the circumstances at this time.

There were a number of insensitive statements made at the April 11th meeting, and Superintendent James-Ward was not the only one to make them. Accountability needs to include awareness, education, and a path forward, not just punishment for mistakes.

- SDJACL Board of Directors

April 19, 2022

At an April 11, 2022 meeting of the board of the San Dieguito Union High School District, the discussion in response to the question, “Do we know why Asian students do so well in school?”, was highly inappropriate and offensive, as it involved several misguided and perhaps racist stereotypes and tropes regarding the Asian and Asian American community. Listening to this discussion and the context, we do not feel that it was necessarily ill-intended; however, the perpetuation of these stereotypes and tropes do continuing harm to not just the Asian community, but also the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, if not others.

We appreciate the fact that the board meeting was intended to be a training session on diversity, equality, and inclusion issues. Accordingly, we would like to take this incident as an opportunity to address how the perpetuation of Asian stereotypes and tropes harm our communities, why it must stop, and how the District can do better.

First, the use of these stereotypes for Asian immigrants and generalizing those stereotypes to the Asian American community at large – to be clear – definitely harms members of our communities, regardless of the intent. There is no “if”. (Though we appreciate the public apology (from the Superintendent), that apology itself reflects a misunderstanding of the issue.) And such inappropriate comments were not limited to those made by the Superintendent. Not all immigrants of Asian descent are “from China.” Not all immigrants from China are wealthy. Not all students of Asian descent live with both parents and one or both sets of grandparents. Asian students and Asian American students experience a broad range of family circumstances and social lives. And the assumption that an apparent difference in outcomes among different groups of students is based on the wealth of their families improperly discounts their own individual circumstances.

Second, other comments made at the April 11th meeting perpetuate harmful stereotypes and tropes that depict people of Asian descent as invaders or perpetual foreigners, which they are not. At the meeting, there were comments that Carmel Valley recently “had a large influx of Chinese families moving in, sight unseen, into our homes, into the community ….” Immigration – by any group – is not a silent invasion into “our homes,” but, in our view, a force that has added to the diversity and culture of America that has made it stronger as a country over the centuries. There was also a strange comment stating that “none of those kids are dating.” The statement that no Asian or Asian American youth are dating is also a wildly inaccurate and baseless generalization.

In the context of the discussion, it seemed to us that the various comments made at the April 11th meeting were not intended to be malicious, but to engage a discussion as to the role of socioeconomic factors in student academic outcomes. We appreciate that general notion, but when such discussion starts with anecdotes, overly broad generalizations, and improper stereotypes and tropes, it does a disservice not only to the students and their families, but also to the District and the community.

Good public policy cannot be formulated when it begins with a largely anecdotal discussion focusing on the superficial aspects of a relatively small group of individuals (children of wealthy Chinese families), while ignoring the myriad other circumstances regarding other communities. Similarly, it is a distraction from a more productive discussion that focuses on the formulation or implementation of policy tools that might help improve outcomes for all students.

We do not mean to suggest that socioeconomic factors and demographics should be ignored – in fact, we appreciate the District’s attempt at the April 11th meeting to put together and use statistics and data to help inform its discussion. The District and the community, however, would be better served if its discussion regarding these issues started with credible interpretation and analysis of empirical data, as opposed to the use of stereotypes and generalizations that only reinforce preconceived and unproductive prejudices.

We hope that the District understands the importance of these issues, takes concrete and meaningful steps to understand its own biases and counteract them, and acts appropriately in the future.

- SDJACL Board of Directors


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