MVLA Board Petition sparks change


Natalie Arbatman, Co-Editor-in-Chief

It’s been almost one year since Los Altos Students, Alumni, and Educators and Campus Change Mountain View High School backed by Justice Vanguard, a “grassroots racial justice organization that focuses on creating positive change through education and positive awareness” presented to the MVLA School Board a petition demanding various changes be made in the district and at MVHS, LAHS, and AVHS. 

Since that meeting in August 2021, the board, faculty, and students at each site have been consistently pushing for the eight primary reforms outlined in the original petition. Here’s what’s been done. 

1. Require Ethnic Studies as a year-long social studies class that all in-coming 9th-graders take in the District. 

The board, working with an “ethnic studies task force” made up of school administrators, teachers, and community members, built a class that will be offered as an elective to freshmen for the 2022–2023 school year and will transition to a required course the next year. MVLA is mandating ethnic studies for students 3 years ahead of the state’s deadline for California schools to implement the course. 

According to Kiyoshi Taylor, co-head of Justice Vanguard, the new curriculum is a “mix” of the state-supported curriculum, curricula from schools in San Jose, Oakland, and San Francisco, and input from community members and local historians and professors. 

“After over a year of campaigning for it, it’s just beautiful to finally see it come to fruition,” Taylor said. 

Taylor said the push came primarily from MVHS and LAHS social studies teachers at MVHS and LAHS, who he felt were “really fantastic at listening to the community.” He said the majority of the district board was “gung ho” about implementing the curriculum, with pushback only from Dr. Phill Falliace who expressed the most concern for the curriculum. 

“Those are just obstacles you have to overcome, and we did and honestly, I think it was for the better,” Taylor said. “We got a stronger curriculum because of that.”

2. Require that all departments produce a report by the end of each semester of what course teams are doing to uproot blatant and subtle forms of racism in their class curriculums and enrollment.

Taylor said the Equity Task Force that was created by the district is taking the charge on this. 

“From what has been reported, [the Equity Task Force] has been having really good conversations, advancing towards those bigger topics, but they’re still ironing out the kinks,” Taylor said. “But eventually, I think that task force will be very useful in going about [mandating the reports].”

3. Mandate anti-bias training for staff and MVLA board members after every semester.

Anti-bias training has yet to be mandated for staff, but Taylor said JV is currently developing training that they hope will be used by each site in the near future. 

“I’m sure [the board] think they do enough but even if you’re doing a lot of it, is it useful? So we’re just trying to find out what is useful, what isn’t useful. How is that actually impacting the community?” Taylor said. “That’s just stuff that is  going to take years to fully see what’s going on.”

4. Declare our status as a sanctuary district. 

California already has a “Sanctuary State law,” or SB 54, which was passed in 2017 and upheld by the US Supreme Court last summer, [6] and Santa Clara County has its own sanctuary policy, but Taylor said the petition wanted the district to definitely announce their status. 

“We wanted the district to be like ‘period, we are sanctuary district, period.’ ‘This is a district where all students, no matter their standing, feel safe,’” Taylor said. “We wanted to make sure that promise to those kids and those families is upheld.”

Taylor said the board has stated in some board meetings that they are a sanctuary district. 

“We have gotten some comfort there for the most part, I trust their word on this,” Taylor said. “If I were a student, I would feel comfortable with their stance on it.”

Taylor also said that JV has pivoted it’s focus on this ask to reflect the need for a full-time social worker at MVHS and LAHS in addition to the one at AVHS because, “we think that’d be beyond beneficial to a lot of students than in our district and we have the funds to do it.”

According to Taylor, the hiring of a social worker is something that has “only been discussed as of now but it’s something that wasn’t always being discussed, which is great.” Taylor said the question now is, “How do we actually get the framework to have that be a possibility hopefully by next year?”

5. Remove law enforcement, or School Resource Officers, from all campuses in the District.

Los Altos city council voted to officially remove SROs from the LAHS campus in November 2020. 

At MVHS, SROs have not been removed, but, according to Taylor, “they limited their responsibility, and how they can go about their business in a proper way that doesn’t intimidate other kids.”

Many community members spoke out against SROs at various board meetings, bringing to light the lack of official protocol they are compelled to follow. The changes to the SRO manual in 2021 sought to officially clarify the role of the SROs as “a more “relational” role in working with troubled students and their support network of friends, family and school staff, often acting as mentors,” according to the MV Voice

“I’m not happy where it is currently because I know there’s better programs out there but if police were called out to campus I’d rather it be our local SROs than police officers from the MVPD,” Taylor said. “I don’t think the board was able to empathize with us the way I would like them to.”

6. Reform discipline and counseling policies.

Taylor said that this task is intertwined with Justice Vanguard’s greater mental health initiative. As of now, Taylor said they are “adamant” about hiring more counselors of color and a full time therapist of color. 

“When it’s a black kid going to a white lady about racism, she can only say so much,” Taylor said. “We need someone to help us open up that door because we can’t just break down the stigma of people of color not going to counseling and not wanting therapy if the people they are going to talk to can’t relate to them.”

Taylor said this is an “ongoing battle” that will take full form this summer. He said no one has been hired yet but “we have the resources to do it.”

“We will be pressuring the cities and the school board to cough up the money, because you see all the new buildings we’re getting, we’re building something but let’s build something substantial,” Taylor said. 

7. Ensure that the MVLA Equity Alliance Steering Committee (formed by the end of the 2020 fall semester) includes activist students, educators, and alumni from LAHS, MVHS, and AVHS. 

The Equity Alliance is “comprised of staff members from across the district who are tasked with ensuring the district’s equity goals and objectives continue to be the focus of any and all work that we do,” according to the MVLA District website. The believe there is a “need to institutionalize equitable and anti-racist policies.”

Taylor said they are “going forward with a more concrete plan” to mobilize for more change in the district. 

“Overall [the MVLA board] have been very easy to work with and a joy to work with at times and I respect all of them,” Taylor said.