TRUSD Must Condemn Anti-Asian and Racist Behavior
TRUSD Must Condemn Anti-Asian and Racist Behavior
On behalf of the Sacramento Asian/ Pacific Islander (API) Regional Network, we write to express our disappointment in Ms. Nicole Burkett’s racist actions and demand Twin Rivers Unified School District to denounce racism and take the necessary actions to ensure our students’ safety. The Sacramento Asian/Pacific Islander Regional Network is a coalition of progressive Asian and Pacific Islander organizations and individuals who recognized the need for critical analysis and swift response to the unique impacts of COVID19 on the regional A/PI community.
On February 25, 2021, a video, recorded by Grant Union High School (GHS) students, circulated Facebook. The video was of their Spanish teacher, Ms. Nicole Burkett, demonstrating racist and anti-Asian behaviors during class. She is seen pulling the corners of her eyes in different directions stereotyping the shapes of Asian American eyes. She further mocked Asians stating, “Chinese eyes, Japanese eyes.” In addition, the student who recorded the unacceptable act was audibly heard expressing her discomfort to Ms. Burkett’s actions. The student stated, “I should, I should leave your class right now.”
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2,808 anti-Asian hate incidents were reported within 41 weeks throughout our state and nation. According to Stop AAPI Hate’s data, physical assaults comprised 8.7% of these incidents, while coughing/spitting totaled 6.4%. Verbal harassment constituted 70.9% of these incidents; and shunning or avoidance were 21.4%. Racist and hateful acts like these have been experienced by Asian American students many times in the past. Fortunately now, our students are equipped with the tools such as camera phones to capture and the details and trauma they experience in these classrooms. Anti-Asian behavior, as such, disempowers Asian American students and families and violates the values of diversity, equity and inclusion of Twin Rivers Unified School District (TRUSD).
Of the 27,000 students at TRUSD, 9% identify as Asian Americans, and many belong to families who have been a part of TRUSD’s history for decades. Allowing an environment to foster such racist behavior is detrimental to the decades of trust established between TRUSD and the Asian American community. We call on TRUSD and GHS to condemn any acts of racism from the entirety of its institution and prioritize the safety of our young people and the quality of their education. In order for our Asian American students and families at GHS and TRUSD to move towards healing, we demand the following:
- A formal and public apology from Ms. Nicole Burkett, Grant Union High School and Twin Rivers Unified School District. GHS and TRUSD are accountable for the behavior of their teachers and administration of learning. Our request for a formal and public apology is for TRUSD to demonstrate their commitment to cultivating a safe and positive learning environment for students regardless of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, ability and etc.
- 200 hours of meaningful community engagement and service in Del Paso Heights. Ms. Burkett willfully perpetuated and reinforced stereotypes of Asian Americans through her actions. Her actions were harmful and displayed to all students that racism towards Asian American students is acceptable. It is not! As an educator, Ms. Burkett is expected to be a model for all students. Instead, her behavior betrayed an educator’s sacred duty to nurture trust and student excellence. She must be held at a higher level of professionalism. GHS administrators and the leaders at TRUSD have the responsibility to ensure all faculty and staff are culturally competent and anti-racist. We believe in community accountability, and Ms. Nicole Burkett’s must be held accountable. In order to take a step towards anti-racism and healing for the community, Ms. Nicole Burkett must commit to 200 hours of meaningful community engagement, this year, in Del Paso Heights, especially within Asian American communities, to learn more about the community and background her students come from.
- Mandatory Racial Equity Training and Anti-Discrimination Compliance Training - Ensure that staff employed by TRUSD attend mandatory racial equity training and anti-discrimination compliance training. Training must include education on the history and culture of the specific student population represented within TRUSD, as well as a comprehensive understanding of systemic inequality, structural and institutional power, and the impacts of such on our communities, specifically within TRUSD. Training must be conducted with/and or in consultation with community-based organizations or individuals with demonstrated expertise in the population.
- Adopt and fully implement a strong ethnic studies core curriculum to be taught in Twin Rivers Unified School District. Racist behaviors like these can be avoided through an ethnic studies core curriculum to appropriately educate and discuss the roles of race and ethnic communities. In a statewide assessment of API youth in California, 85% of Samoan participants have not seen their cultural identities represented in their classes, leaving them feeling invisible and unrecognized. Currently, the California Department of Education is developing an ethnic studies model curriculum with community members and education experts. We demand TRUSD to pass a policy to adopt and fully implement required ethnic studies courses within its schools to enrich young people’s understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion to begin to dismantle racist structures and ideology.
- Fund effective TRUSD Asian and Pacific Islander (API) specific youth development programs. In a statewide assessment of API youth, 1 in 2 respondents reported being bullied in school. API youth shared how they were often bullied with stereotypes relating to their racial/ethnic identity. For far too long, API youth have been underserved in this area and incidents like Ms. Burkett’s is a product of that. It is time TRUSD changes that.