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By Julian Peeples

In an effort to stamp out hate, racism and other forms of bias in schools, California Department of Education (CDE) recently awarded more than $175,000 in grants to 10 school districts as part of its new Education to End Hate Initiative.

The grants for educator trainings to combat hate and prejudice in schools are one part of the initiative, which also includes building partnerships with community leaders and virtual classroom sessions to leverage the power of education to create a more just society.

“We do not need any more evidence that our country is facing two pandemics: coronavirus and hate. It feels like every day we are seeing heartbreaking examples: more anti-Semitic behavior, bullying of Asian American students because of our president’s rhetoric, Islamophobia, discrimination of our LGBTQ neighbors, and violence directed at people of color,” said Thurmond, announcing the initiative in September. “It’s time to double-down on our efforts to combat all forms of hate, bias, and bigotry. By digging deeper into the complexities of our diverse and difficult histories—not denying or ignoring them—I believe education can provide the pathway to healing, understanding, and racial and social justice.”

Mini-grants for anti-racist and bias trainings for educators were awarded to:

Eureka City Schools ($20,000)

Lucia Mar Unified School District ($14,600)

Madera Unified School District ($19,999)

Mountain Empire Unified School District ($15,000)

Ojai Unified School District ($20,000)

Petaluma City Schools District ($20,000)

San Lorenzo Unified School District ($20,000)

Union Elementary School District ($20,000)

Willits Elementary Charter School ($6,200)

Wright Elementary School District ($20,000)

This is the first round of grants funded by the Bechtel Foundation. Partner organizations offering professional development and resources through the program include the National Equity Project, Equality California and the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance. More than 300 schools and districts across California applied for the grants and topics addressed by the first round of grantees include anti-racist pedagogy; implicit bias and its impact on students and families; privilege and systems of oppression; and improving coursework on California and Native American Studies.

“The overwhelming response to this grant program speaks volumes: California’s educators are more committed than ever to educational equity through the creation of safe, inclusive learning environments for all students, and they are hungry for more training and tools,” Thurmond said. “Congratulations to these school districts for showing their communities that education has the power to make meaningful, lasting change.”

The final edition in the initiative’s Virtual Classroom Series on “Countering Islamophobia” will take place Jan. 12. Last year, sessions were held on “Pedagogical Approaches to Teaching about Native Americans” and “Countering anti-Semitism.” These sessions are archived on the CDE Facebook Page.

State Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) applauded the Education to End Hate Initiative, saying knowledge is the key to fighting racism and hate.

“We know that racism and hate are taught, and we know that children are born loving everyone. You learn what you live, and unfortunately racism and hate are still being taught in living rooms across the state of California and across this country,” Leyva said. “If we learn about each other, the hope is that we won’t hate each other. The hope is that we will know that we have more in common than not.”