Burbank Teachers Push for Diversity, Inclusivity Through New Group

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The Burbank Unified School District is dedicated to its diversity, equity and inclusion initiative, and it is not alone in its crusade.
It has earned support from the community, most notably a small group of teachers who call themselves the Justice and Equity Team, and they’re ready to assist their fellow colleagues in providing a more diverse, inclusive environment for all students.
“We thought of several names but decided on JET,” said Victoria Cuseo, a Spanish teacher at John Muir Middle School. “It was snappy, and we really liked it.”
Cuseo spearheads the group along with Mojgahn Emamjomeh of Burbank High School and Ericca Dent, a 2nd-grade teacher who was one of 10 educators named 2020-21 Teacher of the Year by Los Angeles County in October.
After attending several California Teachers Association racial and equity committee meetings last summer, Cuseo said she felt it was time to form a similar group in her community and was later given the go-ahead by Burbank Teachers Association President Diana Abasta.
“During this pandemic, we’ve seen gaps in equity and struggles with teachers and students,” she said. “I was feeling like we really needed it, especially with the Black Lives Matter movement. It really highlighted all the ways that we can be doing better, to be more equitable and more focused on social justice in schools.”
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LCUSD Diversity Ideas Prompt Dissent, Calls for Caution

More than a month after a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant presented her extensive findings to the La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board, and a week after the LCUSD entrusted Superintendent Wendy Sinnette with overseeing progress on DEI, parents and community members have galvanized over the matter — some in opposition.
Two LCUSD Governing Board members, President Joe Radabaugh and Kaitzer Puglia, have been tabbed to lead a committee that will help frame DEI initiatives, which ultimately will fall to the entire board to approve or not.
In a combined statement last week, Sinnette and Radabaugh emphasized there will be more involved discussion on the topic of any DEI objectives and priorities, saying:
“We listen carefully to all voices in the community and strive for the best possible outcomes. One of the consistent things we heard related to DEI is that we seek more in-depth community input on the objectives and priorities before we finalize and the board approves. We agree with that feedback and feel a DEI committee comprised of a cross-section of the community is a critical means to that end.”
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City Panel Advises Against Ending Pact With Sheriff’s Dept.

As demonstrations supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and police reform take place throughout the nation, a subcommittee of the La Cañada Flintridge Public Safety Commission has released a report addressing concerns over the city’s contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
During a telephone meeting on Tuesday, the subcommittee consisting of chair Marilyn Smith and Maureen Siegel-Sprowles advised against terminating the city’s contract with the department after speaking with representatives from La Cañada BLM; Save Our Sheriff; Sheriffs Appreciated, Friendly and Engaged; the department; and the city staff.
“We spent a lot of time on this,” Smith said, “and I think our focus from the beginning was to be as evidence-based as possible, to find facts, to drown out the noise and just go with where the facts take us.”
The full commission unanimously approved the adoption of the report and its recommendations. The 11-page document will be sent to staff members and presented to the City Council, which will determine whether to place it on a future agenda.
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Car Displaying Pro-BLM Message Vandalized, Owner Says

Photo courtesy Samantha Varela
Samantha Varela says she recently found that her car, on which she had written “Black Lives Matter,” had been defaced with white paint.

A Burbank resident told police Monday that someone splashed white paint on her car after she wrote messages on it to support Black Lives Matter and mask-wearing habits.
Samantha Varela, founder of comedy production company Naked Comedy, said she was returning home in the afternoon when she walked past her car. To her shock, she found that the front windshield had been coated with paint.
“I was just overwhelmed,” she said in a phone interview. “People have said stuff to me — they’ve yelled ‘All lives matter’ or flip me off — so I always kind of knew something could happen, and thankfully I wasn’t in the car, [it wasn’t] direct violence or anything like that. But it was definitely overwhelming to see that something had happened.”
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Activist’s Effort Was Solitary, but Now There’s Solidarity

The one-man demonstration by local resident Spencer Carney, shown in the foreground, inspired others to join him in front of City Hall on Tuesday to show support for Black Lives Matter and Pride Month. The group plans to return on each remaining Tuesday this month.
Photo by Zane Hill / Glendale News-Press

As he took note of the massive protests forming in the Los Angeles area, Spencer Carney knew he had a decision to make.
The protests joined countless others throughout the nation and world, all to call out systemic racism and policy brutality after George Floyd was arrested in Minneapolis and died after one of the four arresting officers knelt on his back and neck for nearly nine minutes. But, Carney noted, they also ran contrary to social distancing widely adopted to help curb COVID-19, a disease of particular threat to senior citizens such as those who occupy most of the Glendale resident’s apartment building.
“The idea of going out to a protest and exposing myself to people not practicing social distancing or wearing a mask represented a conflict,” he said. “It was difficult for me to brainstorm these things, because in the past, I was always that guy who would go out and protest. I’ve been to the last two Women’s Marches. I went to USC and helped start One for All, which is a social justice theater troupe.”
Having attended various Pride events in years past, Carney also took note of the All Black Lives Matter march in Hollywood last weekend, which called attention to the adversity faced by black members of the LGBTQIA community and took place in lieu of the canceled Pride Parade. Continue reading “Activist’s Effort Was Solitary, but Now There’s Solidarity”

Glendale Officials Address Message of Protests

In the coming months, the City Council expects to consider a report from City Manager Yasmin Beers that would outline potential new policies for the city to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in its staffing and operations.
This discussion may also include a dive into how to address, if at all, nationwide calls to “defund the police,” in which protesters speaking out against institutional racism and police brutality are demanding that funding for police departments be redistributed in part to other social and public health programs.
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Protest March Is Significant, Hopeful

Photo by Zane Hill / Glendale News-Press
Protesters march down Brand Boulevard, past the iconic Alex Theatre, on Sunday in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. More than 1,500 joined in Sunday’s demonstration, one of countless numbers that continue nationwide to call for police reform after the death of George Floyd while being arrested in Minneapolis.

The occasion was one part solemnity and another part rage, but the energy that resonated from the throngs of protesters who marched on Sunday and paid respect to lives lost seemed, in some ways, hopeful.
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Protesting of Racial Inequality Reaches LCF

Photo courtesy Mark McIntyre
About 60 protesters turned out locally to decry police brutality on people of color and the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.

Dozens of protesters gathered in La Cañada Flintridge on Sunday to advocate for police reform, in a demonstration that echoed others held across the nation since the recent death of George Floyd while he was in officers’ custody.
The protesters, clad in face masks, started the morning at Memorial Park before making their way to the busy intersection on Angeles Crest Highway and Foothill Boulevard. Once there, they displayed to passing drivers signs bearing messages such as “Black Lives Matter” or urging donations to funds for those who have been injured or arrested in the protests to condemn the death of Floyd, who perished in Minneapolis on May 25 after a police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes despite his pleas that he could not breathe.
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