BUSD to Host DEI Discussion

The Burbank Unified School District will host a panel discussion to inform the community about its diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiative on Tuesday, May 4, at 7 p.m.
In an effort to be more transparent with stakeholders, members of the DEI Committee will gather virtually to share their thoughts, the work the district has done so far and what DEI means for students, staff and families.
“We have a diverse group of students, parents and employees working on DEI over this past year, so we want to set up a panel so people can share their experiences and perspectives on DEI,” said Superintendent Matt Hill.
Board of Education members Armond Aghakhanian, who helped launch the committee in 2019, and Emily Weisberg will be part of the event, as well as state teacher of the year finalist Ericca Dent, Luther Middle School Principal Oscar Macias, school intervention specialist Juan Avila, Burbank High School student Emily Hasunuma, Walt Disney Elementary technology specialist Rosemary Morrison and BUSD parent Africa Turner.
“The main focus is to start to create these spaces and conversations throughout the district,” Hill said. “This panel will give everyone a different perspective.”
Hill has often updated board members and the community on the district’s DEI efforts. He recently reported of the organization of an employee resource group that includes representatives from the Burbank Teachers Association, California School Employees Association and Burbank Association of School Administrators. The group will help define diversity, equity and inclusion for the district.
The DEI committee is also working on updating policy as well as selection criteria for instructional materials.
Formed nearly two years ago, the BUSD DEI committee ramped up its efforts last summer and presented an ant-racist statement and revised policy to the board in October. The district’s main areas of focus when it comes to DEI are policy, instruction, social emotional support for students and engagement.
“We’ve been studying other districts and other organizations on how they approach this work,” said Hill, who added that BUSD partnered with the California Teachers Association and has a consultant guiding them. “We’re in the early phases and we’re learning how to do this. We’re learning like everyone else.”
The district stood firm on its DEI principles last fall when Hill removed “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Cay,” “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry,” “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “Of Mice and Men” from its core novels list after multiple families filed complaints about the racial components of the books being taught in classrooms. The books are no longer required reading but are available at the school libraries.
“We can and we should do better,” Hill wrote to families after making the decision. “For me, this comes down to a human rights issue. Our Black students and families are telling us that our current curriculum is not meeting this expectation. How can we ignore them? In addition, how can we pass an anti-racist statement and not back it up with action?”
For more information about the BUSD’s DEI work and resources, visit burbankusd.org/deiresources.