Post-election, local educational institutions emphasize inclusion | News | Palo Alto Online |


Post-election, local educational institutions emphasize inclusion

Palo Alto schools, Stanford, Foothill-De Anza respond to election results

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In the aftermath of the presidential election this week, local school districts and universities sent messages to their communities to affirm their commitments to values of inclusion, diversity, equity and open discussion.

Palo Alto Unified School District Superintendent Max McGee urged students and families to "emphasize the beauty of diversity, the importance of belonging, and the benefit of coming together during times of transition."

Calling the election "among the most divisive in memory," top Stanford University leadership — new President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, outgoing Provost John Etchemendy and newly named provost Persis Drell — told students, faculty and staff the day after the election that "we must address the divisiveness we have witnessed with the respect, candor and intellectual clarity that befits our academic mission." The next day, Stanford's Faculty Senate passed a resolution reaffirming the university's "commitment to an open and inclusive community that embraces all members, irrespective of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, citizenship, abilities and political views, and that celebrates and learns from diversity."

Judy Miner, the chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, sent a message to faculty and staff Wednesday about both the local and national election results, drawing their attention to one phrase in the district's recently revised mission statement: "developing a broadly educated and socially responsible community that supports an equitable and just future for California."

"We are equally committed to an equitable and just future for the United States of America and we strive towards that end guided by our moral compass and living our core values," Miner wrote. "The work we do is affirming; it is healing; it celebrates the triumph of the human spirit. We will stay the course because that is who we are."

Foothill College's new president, Thuy Thi Nguyen, who is thought to be the first Vietnamese-American community college president in California, also sent a message to the Foothill community.

"We do not need to go far, with many countries represented at Foothill, to know the preservation of democracy requires vigilance," she wrote.

And on Friday, the head of Palo Alto all-girls school Castilleja implored students and alumnae to "not become discouraged about the future of women's leadership" and instead "forge ahead with Castilleja's commitment to close the gaps that so many women still face."

Though none explicitly said so, the messages seemed a direct response to the rhetoric of the campaign of Donald Trump, whose election Tuesday left students of color, immigrants and others worried about the future of the United States — and their place in it.

On election night at Stanford, hundreds of students poured out to White Plaza to protest Trump's election, the Stanford Daily reported. Anti-Trump graffiti with expletives was found the next morning on campus, according to the Daily.

At Palo Alto elementary, middle and high schools this week, there were some "isolated incidents of harassment," McGee wrote in his message. He told the Weekly Friday that these incidents were not physical — mostly "teasing and taunting" — but he "wanted to be clear that we wouldn't tolerate it."

And at Woodside High School, a student who posted her support for Trump on social media was physically attacked by another student at school on Wednesday. The next day, hundreds of Woodside students walked out of class to protest the election results.

Educational leaders encouraged students and their families to be respectful and inclusive in the coming days and weeks.

"Even as we maintain our focus on education and research in service to the world, we must reaffirm our bedrock values of free expression, diversity and inclusion," Tessier-Lavigne, Etchemendy and Drell wrote in their message. "This includes promoting a culture where all opinions can be heard and respected. Our university is enriched by the perspectives we each contribute."

McGee wrote that he was "proud that our students are deeply invested and engaged in our country, and this is a wonderful time to discuss the underlying principles of our democracy: freedom of speech, a collective commitment to equity, and our inalienable rights.

"It is important that we model compassion and respect for all members of our community," he continued. "As caring adults we also have the opportunity to emphasize the beauty of diversity, the importance of belonging, and the benefit of coming together during times of transition."

McGee, as well as the district's student services office, offered on-campus support services, including counseling, to any students who might be in need of additional support, and urged parents to contact the schools on their children's behalf if need be. They also sent links to resources for parents on how to talk with their children about the election.

On Wednesday morning, Stanford administrators also sent students a separate message to offer support services and to invite them to attend open conversations at campus community centers.

"In the days and weeks ahead, we expect the community to come together in additional programs, events and other gatherings that provide an opportunity to reflect on ways in which we can help shape our future," Greg Boardman, vice provost for student affairs, and Elizabeth Zacharias, vice president for human resources wrote in their message.

Foothill's political science and sociology departments also organized a panel discussion on the election this week, and student-government body the Associated Students of Foothill College is hosting an open forum this Monday to further reflect on the results.

Teaching the election

Meanwhile, in classrooms through the Palo Alto school district this week, administrators and teachers made efforts to discuss the election with students of all ages.

At Escondido Elementary School's morning assembly on Wednesday, Principal Chuck Merritt did not speak to the election itself but gave a brief talk emphasizing community.

"My goal was to make students (and others) feel safe by pointing out the adults (staff and parents standing in the back) that are the students 'circle of care and kindness' at Escondido," he told the Weekly. He also asked students to turn and look at their buddy classes, grades that are paired together for the year, to remind themselves that "they are part of a mutually responsible and caring community."

And in a fourth-grade classroom at Escondido, students watched and then discussed a post-election remarks President Barack Obama gave, which reminded a divided country that we "are all on the same team."

At Gunn High School, students in one history class talked about the electoral college and its implications in the election, McGee said.

At Palo Alto High School, journalism teacher Esther Wojcicki said she urged her students to write a story on student response to the election results and had them read national coverage of the results. She also gave her students a second story idea: "what students think they can do to help promote unity in face of the divisiveness of this election."

Other Paly student publications, including Verde Magazine and the Paly Voice, reserved space for post-election coverage, teacher Paul Kandell said.

Gunn journalism teacher Kristy Blackburn said she watched Hillary Clinton's concession speech live on Wednesday with her beginning journalism class. They talked about the election from a journalistic perspective -- Blackburn encouraged students to read a range of media coverage, both national and international -- as well as a more personal one. The class was "subdued" the day after election night, she said.

"We looked at it journalistically, but I told them, 'you may use this time to process what's happened,'" Blackburn said.

Talking about the results of this election in particular has been challenging for teachers, she said.

"I don’t want to be political, but I also don’t want to condone behavior I think is really inappropriate," she said, referring to Trump's campaign. "A lot of us are trying to find that fine line."

As an educator, she seized this week as a teaching moment, telling students: "That's not how we treat people on this campus."


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10 people like this
Posted by Paul Bearer
a resident of another community
on Nov 11, 2016 at 10:42 am

We are in big trouble.

12 people like this
Posted by Huh!
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 11, 2016 at 10:56 am

[Post removed.]

10 people like this
Posted by Racism in PA
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 11, 2016 at 11:35 am

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

40 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2016 at 12:37 pm

I see this as a direct consequence of both political parties and especially the media in their effort to over-analyze everything, latching onto "identity politics" as a way to win elections over the past decade or so (particularly the democrats). You never hear any more that the candidate has to appeal to american voters , you hear over and over again that he/she has to appeal to blacks, hispanics, women, LGBT, immigrants, non-college educated whites, urban vs rural, etc., etc. etc. By dividing up americans this way explicitly, you are creating and enforcing divisions and animosities. I'd like to see polls ,exit polls, and the news media stop reporting altogether that someone is winning a greater percentage of the votes for a sub-group comprised of hispanic lesbian women who are southern baptist, non-college educated , and older than 45. These are ALL americans and playing one group off against another is bad for the country even if it might be tactically efficient for politicians seeking to win narrow victory in a pretty philosophically divided country.

17 people like this
Posted by Saddened
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 11, 2016 at 12:47 pm

"At Gunn High School, students in one history class talked about the electoral college and its implications in the election, McGee said."

Gunn HS also flew the flag at half-mast all day after the elections. They say it was "an accident". I thought the high school teachers were educators. In case you are not sure; only the President determines when the flag is flown low.

9 people like this
Posted by MP
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 11, 2016 at 1:04 pm


not sure if this was their right, but perhaps it was their NON-VIOLENT way to exercise the 1st Amendment. Symbolically mourn

I rather allow them to do that, don't you?

23 people like this
Posted by Kimberley
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2016 at 1:45 pm

Web Link

This physical attack (an assault) at Woodside High School is disgusting. Where is the outrage?

10 people like this
Posted by vmshadle
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 11, 2016 at 2:21 pm

vmshadle is a registered user.

Kimberley, don't assume that people who don't support Trump would suddenly countenance thuggery. That is exactly why I and many others do not support Trump because he and his supporters manifest that very same behavior.

I am a lifelong liberal. No excuses exist to support the attack on that Woodside High student. Visiting physical aggression upon students on any campus is reprehensible. Not only are American students supposed to learn about the First Amendment, but also the whole point of an education is to socialize students to use their minds, not their fists, to settle arguments.

If that student isn't safe, why should we assume that any student is safe?

10 people like this
Posted by Kimberley
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2016 at 3:34 pm

I appreciate your honest concern.

My concern is that such hatred and assault came out of intolerance as the following:

Web Link

I know it is very difficult to watch such racist child abuse, but it is a reality that liberals, like yourself, need to see.

11 people like this
Posted by vmshadle
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 11, 2016 at 4:36 pm

vmshadle is a registered user.

As the product of a (differently) abusive childhood, I can also tell you as a white person that abusive parents come in all colors. (That said, I hope Child Protective Services get the kids out of that house. That clip was horrifying -- I could only watch about five seconds of footage.)

25 people like this
Posted by Out of touch
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Nov 11, 2016 at 6:32 pm

Debating politics is most often an exercise in futility. Rarely will you change or even influence minds. But what I can say with certainty is all of you live in affluent bubble (like me) and have no clue about the feelings of most of Americans. And please don't speew all republicans are racist. Perhaps try to do some reading about middle america. Coming apart by Charles Murray is a good start

7 people like this
Posted by Aftermath?
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 11, 2016 at 8:25 pm

I love the unbiased use of the word aftermath by the author of this story.

Aftermath=. The consequence of the after affects of a significant unpleasant event

Nice independent journalism once again by the Palo Alto weekly

20 people like this
Posted by Beyond trump
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 11, 2016 at 8:40 pm

Liberals you need to look beyond trump. Democrats have only 15 governships now. Down from 29 in obamas first year. 69 of 99 state legislatures have republican majorities. Perhaps a little introspection is needed before you start rioting in the streets .

25 people like this
Posted by The Onion
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 12, 2016 at 12:18 pm

This region overwhelmingly supports Hillary and the Democrat Party. For those of us that were beaten and spit on for attending Trump's San Jose Rally, for those of us that have had our cars keyed for displaying Trump bumper stickers, and for those students beaten and assaulted for daring to express a different political opinion, these"so called" local fears of a Trump presidency are truly a world turned upside down.

We are fortunate in this day and age to be able to read the unvarnished truth as written by the DNC and Hillary's campaign manager. [Portion removed.]

14 people like this
Posted by PAUSD is hardly an inclusive community
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 12, 2016 at 12:48 pm

Reading Glenn McGee's words about the beauty of diversity, and Chuck Merritt's words about community are laughable. In no way are African-American and Mexican-American students treated with the same expectations by teachers and principals. Go back to Kevin Skelly's "skeptical statements" in which he said that these kids could not compete with kids with families who could supplement their education. Ask each teacher if they treat each student with the same expectation of excellence.

12 people like this
Posted by Sad
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 12, 2016 at 12:58 pm

I voted for Hillary and have been a life ling Democrat.
Unfortunately, the destruction, violence, and disrespectful behavior I see perpetrated, being sympathized with, excused by, and even encouraged by the anti-Trump community has caused me to re-examine what my party of choice actually stands for. When I read about the paid thugs (paid bullies at trump rallies by the DNC) the dishonesty at the debates (Donna Brazil shenanigans derailing the Sanders campaign and our parties primaries), and the nonsense and hooliganism going on at our schools, I want to distance myself from the Democrats and Clinton camp. The post election news has made me an independent from now on, and very distrustful of the DNC and anti-Trump movement.

10 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 12, 2016 at 1:40 pm

@ Sad... if people are still reading and commenting on the article above, posted yesterday, it won't be long before someone labels you a Republican shill or troll. The liberals refuse to accept the truth about their party. I'm happy that you saw through the deceit.

28 people like this
Posted by Sad
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 12, 2016 at 2:22 pm

@38 year
I voted for Sanders in the primaries.
I voted for Hilary on the election.
I am shocked that Trump Won, but he did.
I want to speak out against the violence and hooligans and I wish my party was too. We lost and its time to figure out how to move forward. I don't think the established DNC is leading the way.

This is a good article by Bernie about it...
Web Link

12 people like this
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 12, 2016 at 4:20 pm

Marc Vincenti is a registered user.

All praise to so many teachers--Esther Wojcicki, Paul Kandell, Kristy Blackburn, lots of others--for hanging in with the kids, being there for them in the most grown-up, professional way, even in the face of whatever personal discouragement they may share with so many of us.

I've noticed that many of my friends and I, needing to lick our wounds, are treating ourselves to much-needed things--gardening, vintage movies, watching sports, vegging out.

All the more impressive, then, that our teachers are soldiering on, present and accounted for, "first responders" there for the kids.

Thanks and good work!

3 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 12, 2016 at 5:23 pm

38 year resident is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

13 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 14, 2016 at 1:23 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Out of touch

Good observation. How can most of us living in this area with our affluence and prosperity ever know how so many of those people in the middle part (red states on the electoral college map) of our country think or feel? I might be an exception because I was born and raised in Montana until I graduated from MSU with a BS degree in Electrical Engineering in 1959. Yes, I left to get a job. There wasn't then, and never will be, a Silicon Valley in MT. We came to Palo Alto in 1961. It was 'a very good year' as Sinatra's song goes.

What is the difference? First of all, Montanans are very independent people, relying on their own abilities to succeed and make it, even without a college degree. And, they can make it because the cost of living, and especially housing, is affordable to most of them. They work very hard and they feel good and proud about it when they do succeed. Taking government aid, only as a last resort, is a humiliating experience for most of them.

And the demographics are so much different than CA's and in particular the Peninsula. Theirs breaks down to 90% white, 5-6% Native Americans, 1% Hispanic, less than 1% black and Asian, and then the rest less than 1%.

I'm not so sure they were worried as much about jobs as the industrial states in the Rust Belt. They just wanted to end the politics, government as usual, in Washington.

23 people like this
Posted by The Antisocial Social Club
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2016 at 3:20 pm

The Antisocial Social Club is a registered user.

If only Hillary et al hadn't fudged the primaries! Bernie was the only candidate who could have implemented good and real, forward-thinking, unifying change!

I felt forced to vote for Hillary-- a candidate only slightly less polarizing than Trump. Hillary lost sight of her roots, sold out to Wall St and greed. If only she could have returned to her roots pre-Bill!

If only, maybe if, what if, why didn't we: some of the most useless phrases in any language.

Trump won, we have to deal with it-- as he has to deal with the realities of his office once he assumes the role. I can guarantee it will change him, hopefully for the better

Posted by Tatanka
a resident of Midtown

on Nov 15, 2016 at 5:21 pm

Tatanka is a registered user.

Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.

17 people like this
Posted by An Antisocial Nation?
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 16, 2016 at 2:22 pm

An Antisocial Nation? is a registered user.

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

12 people like this
Posted by Dead On
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 17, 2016 at 2:00 pm

Dead On is a registered user.

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

5 people like this
Posted by R U Serious!
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2016 at 2:06 pm

R U Serious! is a registered user.

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

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