SACRAMENTO — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond responded Monday to the death of George Floyd by calling on communities across the state and nation to take action to dismantle institutional racism and inequities in public schools.
He also invited students, educators, families, and partners to participate in an upcoming series of honest, courageous conversations that can help inform the work ahead.
“Given the gravity of what has happened, it is important to me to take some time to talk about the important need for us to have racial justice in California and in this country,” Thurmond said.
“It has been difficult for me to make sense of how a man can beg and plead for his life and still have his life snuffed out,” he said. “It has been hard for me, as a black man, who every day thinks about the impact of race. It has been difficult for me, as a parent raising African American children, to know what to say, how to answer their questions when they ask me, ‘Dad, why did this happen?’ And to know that I have to confront my own vulnerability: that when they ask me, ‘Could this happen to them?’ that I might not be able to keep them safe.”
To the loved ones of George Floyd, Thurmond addressed them directly: “I believe that you deserve more than condolences and prayers. I believe that you deserve action that leads to racial justice.”
“We know that bias exists in every sector of society,” the schools chief added. “Now is our time to speak, and to address racism and implicit bias in education.”
An archived video broadcast of the State Superintendent’s full remarks can be found on the California Department of Education Facebook page.
In his remarks, Thurmond noted that public education can play an important role in better exploring the connection between issues of educational equity and implicit bias in the classroom and the systemic racism that persists throughout society. Black and brown students are more likely to be suspended and expelled and fall behind academically, for example, and schools that serve communities of color are often the most under-resourced.
Thurmond announced that he and the CDE will be launching a series of discussions that will include superintendents and educational leaders from across California, students, teachers, school support staff, parents, and caregivers.
He also intends to convene stakeholders in discussions of implicit bias beyond schools to include leaders of statewide and national law enforcement organizations, elected officials, civic community leaders, and more. Details of these gatherings and how to participate will be forthcoming.
Thurmond also announced that he has created an outlet — firstname.lastname@example.org — that will allow for additional voices and ideas to be heard. CDE will use this collected feedback to develop a new online resource that will be an extension of these conversations. More details will come later.