OAKLAND (CBS SF) – In response to “unprecedented political times” as businessman Donald Trump is poised to be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday, Oakland public schools will be hosting activities and exercises to nurture student voices and educate them about their role in the democratic process.
Superintendent Antwan Wilson wrote in a letter to the Oakland Unified School District community Thursday that schools, beyond their role for academic learning, “serve as vital spaces for understanding and processing complex feelings.”
“We live in a city with a rich, proud civic history,” Wilson wrote. “OUSD will recognize the significance of this moment in our diverse city by balancing the need for adult support and freedom of expression.”
Among the steps that the district is taking, teachers will be creating safe spaces for discussion of the issues raised by the election and taking care to help students have difficult conversations about the issues.
In the days following the November election, many Oakland students participated in protests, walking out of classes and joining street marches or holding rallies outside. The students were incensed by Trump’s hostile rhetoric around immigration, promising to build a wall on the Mexican border and proposing to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.
In Oakland, a city with a long history of immigration, Wilson affirmed the district’s status as a “sanctuary district” doing everything possible to ensure students are safe at school regardless of immigration status.
Wilson said Thursday that the district is anticipating more protests on Friday and that school staff will be notifying district officials in case of any disruptions.
Earlier this week, some Oakland and Berkeley teachers called on the district to simply cancel classes in protest, an act they said would not be unprecedented as Bay Area schools held coordinated disaster drills in response to budget cuts in 2010.
While many schools will be having inauguration-related lessons on Friday, district spokesman John Sasaki said most of the high schools are having final exams, a shortened school day that would allow them to join the protests once they are finished with their work.
Berkeley schools will similarly be holding educational activities about the inauguration on Friday and creating spaces for discussion, according to district spokesman Charles Burress.
At Berkeley High School, where 1,500 students walked out the day after Trump’s election, students will be working on review for final exams next week, but there will be special activities at noon for students to “talk about the inauguration and their role as citizens in our democracy,” Burress said.
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