February 18, 2021Dear Oakland Unified Community,
Tonight, I need to address an incident that happened in our Early Literacy Summit and Family Workshop this afternoon. It was a large meeting held via Zoom and open to all students, families, and staff. As we opened up the chat function in the Zoom, a small number of participants entered expletives, racial slurs, and violent language, and even displayed obscene video. We quickly shut down the chat function and removed the offending individuals from the meeting. A short time later, we reopened the chat function to invite positive comments from our community, and it happened again. We immediately shut down the chat function for the rest of the meeting.
To be clear, racist, hurtful, violent and obscene language or images have no place anywhere in Oakland, much less within an OUSD activity meant to celebrate the great work our students, families, and schools are doing in literacy. Our staff directly addressed the offensive behavior and the harm it did to the space, especially to the members of our community who were present. Staff then reframed the discussion in a spirit of unity and solidarity, of not allowing anyone’s hatred to adversely impact the work we are doing in and with our community.
We are sorry to all who were part of the meeting, who had to witness this ugly behavior. We are doing all we can to prevent any such incidents in future meetings, including reexamining our online security measures. We are investigating the incident and working to uncover the identities of the people responsible, so we can hold them accountable.
We want to thank everyone who took part in the Early Literacy Summit, especially all of our brilliant students. Here is a link to the full slide presentation.The summit included two student leaders from Westlake Middle School reading published novels they wrote, teachers and principals sharing the literacy work from their schools, a wonderful interaction between a mother and daughter as they showed us how they like to read together, and the introduction to a fabulous online system called SORA that will allow all students to virtually check out books from our OUSD on-line library. To allow your student to access the new SORA system, select the SORA icon on Clever, or visit soraapp.com.
The light and positivity shown throughout the summit outshined an unfortunate incident. We deeply appreciate everyone in our community for standing united in the face of such negativity and remaining resolute in our commitment to support our students.
Sondra AguileraChief Academic Officer
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