Community Gathers in Rally Outside District Office

Audrey Allen, Editor in Chief

4 p.m. Aug. 4, students, graduates, parents, and other Acalanes Union High School District (AUHSD) community members gathered outside of the district office. Nearly 100 people wearing masks and waving signs, the rally demanded three things: reinstatement of inter-district transfers, an accountability program to prevent racism  on campus, and a diversified curriculum.  

The rally was organized by Kaylyn Goode, Miramonte graduate of 2019, and a coalition of six others including Ava Moran, Masina Mayo, Paige Love, Casey Roy, and Athena Davis. The rally brought together a multitude of speakers from varying organizations and schools. The speeches varied from personal stories, calls to action, demands for justice, and more.

 “I want the district to understand that we will not stop until we are heard,” Goode said. “I wanted to have it in front of the district building to amplify our point. It worked out that some of our district leadership were at the district building prior to the event and stayed to hear what their community had to say.”

Athena Davis, Miramonte graduate of 2020 and board member of the Acalanes Union Coalition for Transfer Students (AUCTS), spoke out about the transfer ban put into place at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year due to budgetary concerns. “When the school board banned transfer students, they fortified already existing borders blocking low-income folks and people of color from attending our schools,” Davis said. She argued that since enrollment is expected to remain steady or decrease at some schools across the district, the AUHSD would, in turn, have enough money and resources to support the return of interdistrict transfers without jeopardizing academic programs or school facilities.

Other organizations that shared their voices in front of the crowd were the Bay Area Grass Roots, a central resource center for the vulnerable population of the Bay Area, and the student-led Diversify Our Narrative, who fight for anti-racist and diverse texts in the AUHSD.

Las Lomas Reform shared their goal of “the permanent institutional and cultural reform of AUHSD to protect Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and marginalized identities from enduring trauma on campus”, according to their Instagram bio. The Committee for Multicultural Educational Reform (CMERA) advocated for diversifying the curriculum, the importance of bringing in more faculty of color, and reversing the transfer ban. The LLHS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee of Las Lomas mothers encouraged the need for an accountability policy in the district. 

Paige Love represented the non-profit organization Justice for Miles Hall. Miles Hall, a Las Lomas graduate, was shot and killed by the Walnut Creek police in June 2019. Hall was only 23, and suffered from mental illness. During one of his mental health episodes, his family called the police for help. Instead of attempting to calm the situation, the officers shot and killed Hall within a block from his family’s home. This organization demands justice for Hall, pushing for non-violent crisis responses for mental health calls, police accountability, and a mental health-friendly community. 

Dina Mirmotalebisohi, the District Co-Lead and senior at Las Lomas, spoke on behalf of the Diversify Our Narrative AUHSD organization. “In my speech, I spoke of our initiative and our mission which is to increase representation of the BIPOC community in our curriculum and also to encourage productive dialogue regarding race among the student body. It focused immensely on the twisted and belittled narratives of the BIPOC community in all our subjects, especially within History and English classes,” Mirmotalebisohi said.

“It was beautiful to see our students show up to support fellow students; however, I wish I would have seen more parents, more faculty, and more board members,” Goode said. Four district board members attended the rally, however only one stayed the whole time. “I think it had an impact on our board members, but our work is just getting started. We will not stop until we see real, tangible change that addresses the pain already caused and does everything possible to prevent future pain to BIPOC and minority students,” Goode said. 

Behind the stage was a mural created by Campolindo graduate of 2019 Bella Nazzari. The artwork depicted students from each of the four AUHSD schools participating in inclusive activities, set up outside of the district office as a symbol of equity. Throughout the rally, participants had the opportunity to write personal experiences with discrimination or changes they wish to see implemented in the district on Post-it notes, which were hung up on the mural. After the scheduled speakers was an open mic. 

“My favorite part of the rally was open mic. After the scheduled speeches, students who wanted to share an experience or words of wisdom stood in a line and one by one walked up to the microphone and spoke. This moment was unforgettable, because we saw so many students decide to speak last minute and on the spot, which made what they said that much more meaningful,” Mirmotalebisohi said. She wanted to participate to inspire her peers to take action and to prove to the community the power in the student-led organizations dedicated to creating a change in our schools. 

“If only more adults from the district had come to see how inspiring the youth can be, how capable we are. It is the type of energy, this confidence, feeling of safety that existed at this rally that we want in our schools when we talk about race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and the list goes on,” Mirmotalebisohi said.

“I was really happy with the turnout and especially with the open mic because many students spoke their truth and our ultimate goal was just to provide a platform for other students to be heard by the administration,” Ava Moran, Miramonte senior who helped organize the rally, said. 

The rally took about four weeks to plan, utilizing social media to spread the word and publicize the event. “I remember when we first talked about creating a protest, we were frustrated that the administration couldn’t actually listen to us in person, we felt that Zoom gave them the chance to hide behind a screen without truly hearing how painful these experiences were for the people of color in this community and the BIPOC students going through the school system,” Moran said.

“I knew there would be a board meeting on Aug. 5, so I wanted to have it the day before in front of the district building to amplify our point,” Goode said. At the Aug. 5 AUHSD board meeting, sixteen community members spoke to fight against the ban on interdistrict transfers. Although a decision was not made, the board agreed to set a date to discuss the transfer policy. 

“So far, the administration has made changes like implementing a new policy for accountability and have included sessions that engage all students in issues encompassing race in classes,” Moran said, hoping that the protest will convince the district board to reconsider their ban on transfers and to implement a clear policy on their accountability plan.

“There have been minor victories, and it is important to recognize that,” Goode said.