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Davis, California

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Davis residents, activists debate implicit bias training at Woodland school board meeting

Woodland Joint Unified School District passes resolution to instruct implicit bias training for staff 


By CHRIS PONCE — city@theaggie.org


Content Warning: This article contains discussions of transphobia.


On Thursday, Aug. 10, the Woodland Joint Unified School District (WJUSD) convened to approve several agenda items. These included Resolution 2-24, which would offer student-led implicit bias and sensitivity training for secondary students and staff beginning as early as the fall of 2024. The board defines implicit bias using UC Davis’ Anti-Racist Practice: Implicit Bias and Microaggressions.

The resolution specifically addressed affirming the identities of LGBTQIA+ students — a  topic that gained the attention of Davis locals. Yolo County Moms for Liberty, a local organization that has previously advocated against transgender youth, shared a Facebook post before the meeting entitled “Protect Our WJUSD Kids,” encouraging people to attend the meeting. An Instagram post by Davis Pride, the committee that organizes Davis Pride events, encouraged people to turn out in support of the resolution.

The public comment section of the meeting featured 19 in-person speakers and 24 voicemails. Davis activists and concerned citizens spoke out to weigh in on the school board’s decision.

“I’m very concerned about the high numbers of children that are identifying as transgender, nonbinary, pangender, trigender, what else do we have: agender, two-spirited,” Beth Bourne, a Davis resident with Yolo County Moms for Liberty, said in a comment to the school board. “There’s quite a bit of different genders you’re offering these children. And I have access to the health-connected curriculum, and the puberty talk and the teen talk. So I understand that you are indoctrinating these kids to learn about an ideology that is not based in science.”

After Bourne’s public comment, a member attending the meeting spoke out and said to Bourne, “go back to Davis.”

Dillan Horton, a Davis City Council candidate for District 2, attended the meeting and spoke in favor of the resolution during the public comment.

“If there’s something that makes America great it’s that we are always striving to move forward and to include more and more people, to make everyone feel like they have access to the American dream and are part of the American experience,” Horton said. “Efforts, as previous speakers have touched on, that seek to exclude any class of our students but particularly in this time in our country LGBTQ+ students, particularly trans students, those are efforts that […] are anti-American. This is not who our country is, this is not who Woodland is.”

During the public comment, many speakers expressed concern about School Board Trustee Emily MacDonald and called for her to be recalled.

“I wish to thank the members of the board for reaffirming support of all students, including our LGBTQ+ students,” a caller said via voicemail. “This shows our LGBTQ+ students you will accept them for who they are, your students. […] For this reason, I, as a voter of Area 2, am asking for Trustee MacDonald to resign. She has invited hate to a particular population of students by making them ‘other’ than the rest of our students when they are still our students.”

One of the major reasons for the recall effort is MacDonald’s stance and comments on trans youth, according to the website campaigning to recall Trustee MacDonald.

“When Trustee MacDonald ran for school board, she did not disclose these controversial views on the LGBTQIA+ community as a candidate for office,” reads a statement on the website. “In light of these recent public statements, we believe that the voters of Trustee Area 2 deserve a chance to decide whether they want Trustee MacDonald to continue to represent them.”

These concerns about MacDonald sparked at a June 16 board meeting, which saw the board discuss Pride Month. At the meeting, MacDonald referred to the increase of people identifying as trans as a “social contagion.”

When the board discussed Resolution 2-24 at the August meeting, MacDonald stated that amendments should be made later and the board should vote on it at a later time. The board approved the resolution with only MacDonald voting no. Board Trustee Kandice Fowler shared at the meeting how implicit bias is something that needs to be discussed by educators.

“A lot of people consider race to be an awkward and uncomfortable topic just like when dealing with implicit bias,” Fowler said. “In saying that, just because you’re uncomfortable with it, doesn’t make it a bad thing.”


Written By: Chris Ponce city@theaggie.org