Breanna Reeves | VOICE
Community organization, Anti-Racist Riverside, held its montly discussion called “Candid Conversations” on June 26th.
This month’s theme was Education and Equity and featured incoming Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) Superintendent Dr. Renee Hill and Assistant Superintendent, Equity, Access and Community Engagement, Dr. Jacqueline Perez.
Curated by Anti-Racist Riverside member Janice Rooths, Dr. Hill (above left) and Dr. Perez (above right) discussed the progress of RUSD schools, the implementation of new programs and Ethnic Studies graduation requirements.
Prior to the Board of Education passing the measure to make Ethnic Studies a graduation requirement, RUSD offered both African American Studies and Chicano Studies courses as electives. With Ethnic Studies as a requirement for graduation, the district will integrate the cultural electives already in place as part of meeting the requirements for Ethnic Studies.
Formerly the Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Hill officially began her tenure as Superintendent on July 1, 2021. The online event allowed community members to speak candidly with Dr. Hill about her plans for the district and ask questions concerning the curriculum throughout the district.
Critical Race Theory
One participant asked about the district’s efforts to decolonize the curriculum. With the current uproar surrounding Critical Race Theory (CRT) and its implementation into schools, the participant stated that CRT only covers part of history, but there is much more history to cover.
Dr. Hill responded that Ethnic Studies classes will teach students that multiple perspectives exist within history and to recognize that some perspectives are largely taught over others. She emphasized the importance of incorporating literature, historical documents and equitable representation throughout the curriculum.
Critical Race Theory was originally coined by legal academic Kimberlé Crenshaw and was initially founded within law as a critique to “how the social construction of race and institutionalized racism perpetuate a racial caste system that relegates people of color to the bottom tiers,” according to Public Policy Professor Janel George.
There have been some statements in regard to CRT that have emerged at school board meetings, according to Dr. Hill. She explained that having discussions and just defining CRT is an important step in fostering conversations around the topic.
Another participant asked what RUSD is doing to address racial issues with students early on. Dr. Hill explained that kids make mistakes, but teaching them how to interact and helping them through their mistakes is fundamental.
In February 2020 there was an incident at King High School in which students posed with a swastika. Dr. Perez explained the steps the district took to combat such racial incidents included establishing a Multicultural Council and an Equity Committee. The district also implemented proactive measures such as instituting unconscious bias training, an educational book study and inviting the Anti-defamation League to speak to students.
As the 16th largest district in the state, RUSD has a diverse student population who come from a variety of different backgrounds. RUSD has incorporated programs for students such as the Heritage Program to support Black students and the Legacy Program to support non-native English students.
Anti-Racist Riverside holds monthly Candid Conversations where the community discusses different topics. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Breanna Reeves is a reporter in Riverside, California, and uses data-driven reporting to cover issues that affect the lives of Black Californians. Breanna joins Black Voice News as a Report for America Corps member. Previously, Breanna reported on activism and social inequality in San Francisco and Los Angeles, her hometown. Breanna graduated from San Francisco State University with a bachelor’s degree in Print & Online Journalism. She received her master’s degree in Politics and Communication from the London School of Economics. Contact Breanna with tips, comments or concerns at email@example.com or via twitter @_breereeves.