HomeCity NewsGUSD Looks at Improving Inclusive Practices

GUSD Looks at Improving Inclusive Practices

By Eliza Partika
Glendale News-Press

The Glendale Unified School District Board of Education this week reviewed progress made under the diversity, equity and inclusion initiative, but acknowledged more work must be done to confront hate speech in schools and create a safe and welcoming environment for Black students and other children of color throughout the district.
The agenda item to discuss DEI and update its terms was placed on this week’s school board meeting after several Black families spoke out during the public comment portion of a previous board meeting. They detailed harassment of their children, who are frequently called derogatory racial slurs and the “n-word” during school hours.
Until now, the GUSD policy was to use “restorative practices” to foster an equitable and positive school culture. Restorative practices focus on strengthening relationships and connections between individuals, both children and adults, in a school community.
Amid increased complaints recently, however, the board will now consider more serious disciplinary actions and changes to school policies, which will hopefully lead to improvements on campus culture and climate across all schools.
Superintendent Vivian Ekchian said the district is currently breaking down student discipline data to determine any trends and gather information on student use of hate speech. The ability to report hate speech has been added to the Glendale Unified Tip Line in response to students who have come forward to bring the use of hate speech on campus to the attention of school administrators.
In a statement to the News-Press, Ekchian reiterated the district’s commitment to making school a more inclusive place.
“As adults and educational leaders, we have a special ability and responsibility to influence young hearts and minds. We must create an environment where our students clearly understand how powerfully their words can hurt, injure and diminish one another,” she said. “Our school board members and educational leaders are committed to having honest and courageous conversations about what we, as a school district, can do to build a more respectful and inclusive community for all. I am eager to accelerate this important work and welcome the partnership of students, employees, families, and community members who wish to join in this effort.”
The district has hired a restorative task force made up of district administrators, teachers, staff and parents/guardians, and a teacher on special assignment to uphold restorative practices and positive interventions, and also train teachers how to use restorative practices as outlined in a new district-wide handbook.
“With the appropriate training, we should be able to determine when it is proper for us to use restorative practices and positive behavioral intervention and support, and what are the times when we have to use a different strategy, as they are not all one in the same. We can’t say one practice resolves all challenges that we see in our schools,” she said.
In July 2022, the district changed the athletics code of conduct to include expectations for student behavior and response to the use of hate speech, signed by all student athletes and shared to all parents and guardians. Ekchian said that measures that change policies allow the district to continue monitoring what is happening in schools.
The district began 44 implicit bias courses for teachers, staff and families and provided 32 trainings at its schools. Two mandatory diversity training sessions will be taken by all district employees on an annual basis.


Ekchian outlined some activities the district already has in place to ensure a diverse and equitable education among students, including updated curriculum requirements, the incorporation of optional mental wellness rooms and counseling, and field trips and assemblies that incorporate the diverse cultures that make up GUSD student identities.
“We want to identify together with our community and our students what would be the ideal school and what would be the ideal culture that would support every student in our school,” Ekchian said.
In addition to expanded Advanced Placement and the Gifted and Talented Education offerings and testing — including nonverbal tests that don’t only rely on a child’s English proficiency — the board will continue expanding class offerings and the material covered in class to make it more engaging and culturally relevant to students, Ekchian said.
Eliminating the biases in curriculum was a months-long endeavor by students, faculty and staff to include social justice standards and culturally relevant material in students’ education. “Seeing themselves in literature is important to our students; feeling pride in their identities, heritages, cultures and languages, is significant in the progress our students are able to make,” she added.
Mental health is also being prioritized by the board, through the addition of wellness rooms in every high school. Rooms for students to focus on their social and emotional well-being are also being built in all middle schools and also are being planned for elementary school students. By the end of 2023, the district will have rooms implemented at each school. Telehealth will also be available to students with the permission of a parent/guardian.
In 2021, the board adopted a new history and social studies curriculum that aligned with the state framework for SB48, or the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act. In the 2022-2023 school year, this district is piloting an ethnic studies course at Clark Magnet High School in preparation to make the program districtwide. They also plan to implement an African American Studies course across the district. In addition, Glendale High School partnered with Black Men in White Coats to offer medical internships.
“They don’t have to know someone to get where they want to go. We are now the connection for our students,” Ekchian said.
In February 2023, GUSD was awarded a $200,000 grant for anti-bias education by the state of California, focused on learning together, the collective impact of implicit biases and implementing school clubs that build social and cultural understanding and alliances between diverse classmates.
In addition to increasing diversity initiatives and changing policies, the district plans to organize assemblies to teach students the impact of their words and actions on others.
Ekchian acknowledged that the district is still working on a way to address issues that arise as a community rather than one student at a time.
“This just scratches the surface, there is so much more to be done,” she said.

First published in the February 25 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

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