In light of a recent, large-scale attack on ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh and the ongoing humanitarian crisis and conflict in the region, the Glendale Unified School District Board of Education unanimously approved and adopted a resolution to stand in solidarity with the people of Artsakh and urge the U.S. government to condemn the Republic of Azerbaijan’s violent, deadly campaign.
“While it may not seem much, being on the right side of history is, indeed, admirable,” said Sevak Khatchadorian, chairman of the Armenian Council of America headquartered in Glendale, during public comment.
According to numerous reports, the Republic of Azerbaijan continues to use deadly force against Armenians following the unprovoked military operation on Sept. 19 in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, known as Artsakh. Hundreds of civilians and children were killed in the attack, which has since triggered a massive exodus of ethnic Armenians living in the region amid significant destruction.
Interim Superintendent Darneika Watson introduced the action item to the Board.
“We have a long walk ahead of us, but we have to do this together,” Watson said. “I continue to stand with everyone here at GUSD and fully support the efforts taking place.”
The resolution calls on the White House to not only condemn the actions, but also cease all U.S. taxpayer-funded military aid to Azerbaijan, implement sanctions to hold the country accountable for its human rights violations, and enforce urgent measures to uphold the safety of the people of Artsakh and guarantee access to emergency humanitarian aid.
There’s a local aspect to the resolution as well.
The initiative looks to ensure that students, families and district staff can readily access and are aware of the counseling and mental health services and resources that are available through GUSD and community partners. According to district officials, nearly 1,200 students have enrolled in GUSD schools from Armenia in the past year.
“We are here to stand side-by-side — in partnership — to use what we can do to affect change,” Board President Jennifer Freemon said of the resolution. “I know we don’t often do it in our resolutions, but we have added some very specific action steps for us to go ahead and follow through with that, and to really demonstrate that commitment that we have, as a school district, for each and every one of our students.”
Other portions of the resolution call for educational lessons and professional development opportunities for the school community, the support of awareness campaigns, humanitarian aid drives and other response efforts, and the collaboration with state and local government agencies to aid Glendale’s sister city of Martuni in Artsakh.
Along with Khatchadorian, Glendale Teachers Association President Taline Arsenian thanked the Board during public comment for presenting the resolution.
Arsenian highlighted the mental health and educational resources that have been and will continue to be provided to district students, teachers and staff.
The GUSD Student Wellness Services, Teaching and Learning, and Equity, Access and Family Engagement departments have collaborated to prepare educational resources for teachers to provide fact-based updates to their classrooms, as well as provide students, employees and families with support and a space for reflection and dialogue to address the emotional stress caused by the conflict.
Employee community circles will be held on Oct. 3 along with two parent webinars focused on processing trauma on Oct. 5 and Oct. 9.
“I would like to thank some of our members, especially our teacher specialists, administrators and Dr. Watson — all who took action to provide updates, curriculum outreach and emotional mental assistance for colleagues and students so that our school community could be educated about and responsive to this crisis that is directly impacting the GUSD community,” Arsenian said.
The resolution comes after numerous community protests in the area condemning Azerbaijan’s aggression. Most recently, a protest on Sept. 19 blocked the northbound Hollywood (101) Freeway at Glendale Boulevard to shine light on the conflict.
The Republic of Artsakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh, is the ancestral homeland of the Armenian people and has been populated by Armenians for thousands of years. It is home to an estimated 120,000 civilians.
In December 2022, the Republic of Azerbaijan implemented an illegal blockade of the Lachin Corridor, also known as the “Road of Life.” It is the only road that connects Artsakh citizens to the Republic of Armenia and the rest of the world, and the blockade has left the region without access to basic human needs, such as food, water, electricity, medical supplies and emergency aid.
An Aug. 7 report from Luis Moreno Ocampo, the founding chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, declared the situation as an “ongoing Genocide against 120,000 Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh. The blockade of the Lachin Corridor by the Azerbaijani security forces impeding access to any food, medical supplies, and other essentials should be considered a Genocide under Article II, (c) of the Genocide Convention: ‘Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction.’”
HIRING OF PERMANENT SUPERINTENDENT BEGINS
The Board also unanimously approved the creation of an ad hoc committee to conduct the search and selection of the next GUSD superintendent.
Watson took over as interim superintendent of schools at the start of the 2023-24 academic year following Vivian Ekchian’s retirement in June.
The ad hoc committee will be composed of the Board president and vice president, along with legal counsel, who will be responsible for selecting the new superintendent. The committee will provide the Board with a report of its efforts, including its recommendation.
First published in the September 30 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.