Published Mar. 9, 2023
BY MINNA TROKEL
From ensuring locker room equity to implementing districtwide anti-bias training, the Social Justice Advisory Group, a student group formed this school year that works with CUSD administrators and CHS staff, has gathered every Tuesday at lunch to push for changes in the form of student-created proposals.
Mostly composed of student leaders from change-oriented clubs such as the Be Yourself Club, which provides a safe space for LGBTQ students and allies, the advisory group mainly brainstorms paths to remedy systemic issues and appeal to those who are in a position to help make change.
“The advisory is made of leaders from many clubs that have a common mission,” assistant principal Debbie Puente says. “They are able to coalesce and work together to have a strong impact.”
Puente, along with co-assistant principal Craig Tuana, helps the group efficiently communicate with district administrators.
“We want to do what we need to do to keep the work moving forward,” Puente says. “We open up doors and make contacts.”
So far this school year, the advisory group has focused on making sure all female sports coaches have a key to access the girls’ locker rooms so that all female athletes can change on-site after school.
CHS librarian Phil Crawford, who has advised the group since its start, notes how most of the group assumed that the locker room issue would be quickly resolved, but it took the entirety of the first semester to solidify change.
“If there was a policy that outlined times when the locker rooms would be open, then it would just be asking for an established policy to be enforced, but since it wasn’t, it took so long to figure out whose responsibility it is and who’s meant to do what,” Crawford explains.
Many members of the advisory group note how frustrated feelings underlined the process since students’ ambition often conflicted with school bureaucracy.
“I wish we had more support from faculty and more administrative presence, someone to tell us what is feasible and what isn’t feasible,” says senior Grace Wang, a member of the anti-hate speech task force which became part of the advisory group. “It often feels like we are shooting in the dark.”
These feelings started in the 2021-22 school year when the anti-hate speech task force was pushing for a chance to present the findings of their survey on hate speech at CHS to students and staff. Senior Calla Woodruff Lyons describes how multiple obstacles the group faced ultimately led to the school year ending without much progress being made.
Along with the students, Crawford was hoping that combining into a single group could help increase efficiency and promote the group’s impact. Some students are satisfied that the locker room confusion was cleared up, but others had higher expectations.
Senior Ayami Cole, who currently is helping lead the push for anti-bias training as a continuation of the previous research conducted by the task force, expresses wishes that more could have been done in the first semester, especially since she will be leaving at the end of the year.
Puente chalks the delays up to process.
“Things don’t happen over night,” she says. “You have to talk to one person, which leads to another person and then another. What seems to be so simple, there are a lot of pieces to it. “
Despite echoing feelings of frustration, Crawford and multiple students perceive the experience in a positive light.
“It’s both a frustration and a learning experience,” Cole says.
The group is attempting to promote anti-bias training for the beginning of the next school year during staff training. Tuana notes that the district is currently deciding on a similar idea for a districtwide training program and that the two groups will likely work together on this program, although it is still in its planning period.